Elizabeth Rasmussen (Class of 2004)
Where did you go after Presbyterian School?
I went to high school at St. John's and then attended Stanford University where I graduated and majored in History and Latin American Studies.
What are you up to now?
I'm in my second year of Teach For America, and I'm teaching 4th grade at PAVE Academy, a charter school in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. I love teaching all subjects, but I'm especially passionate about teaching history. I love seeing 4th graders analyze primary documents from over 200 years ago! I also server as a Girl Scout troop leader.
How did Presbyterian School influence you?
As an elementary school teacher, I constantly refer back to my years at Presbyterian School. It amazes me how much I remember from my years at PS, and how big of an impact the teachers had on my life. I love making connections for my students with my own education--I remember reading the Roald Dahl's the BFG in Ms. Gillett's fourth grade class at PS. I loved sharing those memories with my students as we read Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach earlier this year. Last year I brought in the poetry anthology I created in Mrs. Henrick's 3rd grade class to share with my students as an example of what their poetry anthologies might look like at the end of our unit. They loved seeing my work from when I was their age, and it made me seem all the more human. I was so lucky to have so many phenomenal teachers at Presbyterian School and hope that more children across the country have the opportunity to learn from the same quality of teachers that I did. The teachers that I had at PS inspired me to teach where I teach. Red Hook needs more great teachers.
Which core value(s) did PS instill in you? (Respect, Perseverance, Courage, Compassion, Integrity, Gratitude). Describe how you live out these core values today.
The P in PAVE Academy, stands for perseverance, so it's a value that I refer back to ALL of the time. As a second year teacher, I can, with confidence, look back on my first year teaching and say that it never would have been possible without perseverance. My first year in the classroom has been my biggest challenge to date. Most days, especially in the first few months, I headed home focusing on all of the things that I could have done better, the ways in which I could have provided better explanations for my students or how I wished I'd handled a behavioral problem differently. Those feelings are somewhat common for first year TFAers who received only a 6 week crash course in teaching before being thrown into a classroom in some of our country's highest need schools. I got pretty down on myself, but it was because I wanted to be a better teacher, needed to be a better teacher for my kids. I set goals for myself, worked with my instructional coach to improve my practice, read books about pedagogy, and now, at the beginning of my second year in the classroom, I'm an entirely different teacher. There's still a lot to improve, a number of things that I want to do to make myself an even better teacher, but I'm headed in the right direction. The perseverance that was first instilled in me at PS is getting me through.
What is your favorite PS memory?
So many! Rice babies in PreK, dressing up as a lion in Kindergarten, writing our own class book about the Iditarod in 1st grade, the trail mix sale in second grade, dressing up as Laura Ingles Wilder for Great Moments in History in 3rd grade, learning about Texas history in 4th grade and being the first 5th grade class in the brand new middle school--we were so excited to have lockers (popularity was measured by the number of magnets you had). I also loved how the 5th and 6th grade worked together to put on the musical Fiddler on the Roof. I was only an extra in the musical, but it really forged a tight bond between our classes.
What does PS mean to you and your family?
I started at PS as an Alpha. My brother, Spencer, started as an Alpha two years later. We both attended PS for nine years. PS was so central to my family and my foundational years. All of our closest family friends also had children at PS, and almost twenty years later, it's still the bond that ties our families together. My mother served on the board for a number of years and was deeply involved with the school. Now the PS tradition is crossing generations. My niece Arabella Mordy is now a Beta at PS. A little over a year ago my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and I all attended the Presbyterian School Back to School Ice Cream Social at the Outdoor Education Campus. PS had undergone a great deal of growth since I was a student there, but there are still some familiar faces. I cannot wait for Arabella to build leprechaun traps and host a circus in Ms. Christou's kindergarten class just like I did 20 years earlier.