Departing teachers reflect on time at Lincoln
June 17, 2020
Ten Lincoln staff members are departing this year. The Cardinal Times compiled several reflections from those staff members who are departing. Look for a full list below.
Q&A with Patrick Magee-Jenks
What was your favorite part about your job at Lincoln?
My favorite part of my job at Lincoln was witnessing the power of young people practice and put to use the tools of radical systemic change and deep, critical analysis of their world in order to reject the failures of the status quo and bring about a world that is more humane, just, sustainable, equitable, peaceful and beautiful. I enjoyed connecting with students in ways that transcend grades and credit requirements, and that elevated our work together as collaborators and community members with power and agency.
What will you miss about teaching at Lincoln?
I’m going to miss spending sunny days working with students in the courtyard, tracking down struggling students and convincing them to apply themselves and see their potential, opening the junior hallway doors for students who had chosen to go to West Side [Market] instead of their classes, viewing an empty classroom as the evidence of a job-well-done during walkouts, abandoning my lesson plan to listen to student’s frustrations about the world or an emergent issue affecting the school, being moved to tears over and over again as my hope in the future is restored through life-changing, world-improving projects, and students’ accomplishments.
What is something interesting/memorable that you did at your time at Lincoln?
I’ll savor the memory of traveling to D.C. with the Constitution Team in 2019– specifically, touring the monuments by moonlight, getting caught in a rainstorm on the way to the Supreme Court (where we all left soggy puddles on the benches we sat on), sitting and crying with students at the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his March On Washington Speech, and witnessing the connections and celebrations tearfully shared on a bus ride together after midnight.
Where will you be teaching next year/what will you be teaching next year?
Currently, I have not been assigned a new teaching position. I’m laid off due to budget cuts and will hopefully be able to keep teaching high school social studies for years to come. But that really depends on the district’s budget. If all else fails, I’d like to be able to sub so I can spend some time every once in a while at Lincoln and check-in on my former students and make sure they have someone calling out their BS and celebrating their victories. I will also continue to build my leather goods and apparel business, The Masses Co.
Anything else you would like to share?
If there is one thing I hope my students will take from me its that young people have far more power than they realize, but often, their power is stripped away because it’s scary and revolutionary. As soon as methods of actualizing change are effective, they become co-opted and rendered impotent. This isn’t evidence of powerlessness, its evidence that tactics must always be changing. If you don’t like the way something is, work to change it. Use new and unique strategies towards that end. Think creatively about what can be done to affect that change. Young people have the benefit of creative thinking that is diminished with age. Act, adapt, and overcome. Most importantly, work with the community because human beings are nothing if not social and collaborative creatures. Use that to your advantage.
Q&A with Linda Doler
How many librarians did you work with?
I worked with four different librarians. Every one of them was very, very different. I learned something from all of them and I had fun with all of them, but they were all so different. Lori [Lieberman[ has just been an amazing, amazing person to work with. She is so passionate about books and the students. It’s been great. I’ve ended on a very, very positive note, for sure.
What are your biggest takeaways from working at Lincoln for the past ten years?
I am surprised at how much energy you guys had, and how passionate and involved you were. High school seems much harder than when I was in high school. I think that you guys are so much more globally aware and I think that’s, partially because it’s an IB school. I’ve always really loved that energy. I really enjoyed working with a staff that is very creative and very, very passionate about what they do. That really shows that you guys are really lucky to have the staff that you have, and the teachers that you’ve had.
What was your favorite part of working at Lincoln?
I would say the students and the staff because I really think people, interacting with people and connecting to people, I think that’s not only the best thing in the job, I think that’s one of the best things that you can do in your life. And I’ve always really loved people. I love the fact that every day is different, and that’s because I’m dealing with people all the time. Some days are challenges, but most days have been full of fun and learning. I have learned something from a student probably every day that I have worked. Once in a while, I probably learned something I didn’t want to know or didn’t need to know, but most of the time I have really enjoyed that aspect of it.
What will you miss the most about Lincoln?
I will say the people, the friendships I’ve made, watching you guys evolve. It’s kind of amazing. Seeing you guys start as freshmen and then seniors, it’s a big evolution. That’s always been really gratifying to see. The energy for me has kind of been like a dose of the fountain of youth. I say that because I just feel all of the things that you guys are going through and I hear all kinds of interesting things that I wouldn’t normally hear. I think retirement in that way is going to be a little bit boring. When I talk to all my friends and my peers, I often know things they don’t know anything about. I think that comes from just being around you guys. So I will miss that a lot. And just the interaction with you and the staff, and I will miss the TAs. I get to know them better than I get to know anybody else, because I see you guys every other day. That’s always really special and really fun, and sometimes challenging. I’m going to miss being surrounded by all those books. It’s just been so wonderful for me, a reader, to just be able to check almost anything out and it’s pretty much at my fingertips. And if we don’t have it, the librarians have always been pretty willing to get books that I’ve suggested or that I really want to read. So I’m going to miss having my own personal library.
Do you have any plans for retirement?
I have three very small grandchildren. Either we all have to get vaccinated, or once things really open up, I will get to spend more time with my grandchildren. I miss them a lot. So that’s one thing. I hope to find some volunteer projects that I can immerse myself in. I’m hoping to find something with some energy floating around. I don’t think I’m going to ever be able to get to find something that’s like a high school. [It’s] unique in that way. I started working in libraries in a middle school. When I got offered a job at Lincoln, I thought “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to like high school students.” But, I love you guys. It’s been great. I’m going to be able to keep busy. I have hobbies and I like sleeping in. We’ve been sort of sheltering in place, I’ve discovered, I like taking my time in the morning. I plan on pursuing volunteer work, seeing my grandchildren, doing some traveling with my husband. And I love to cook. That’s another thing I’ve enjoyed doing while we’ve been sheltering in place. I might have gained a few pounds, but I’ve discovered some great recipes. So I think I’ll probably be doing more cooking. And of course, reading. I’ve always loved reading, always. So I’m going to be plenty busy, I’m not worried about that at all.
Is there anything else you would like to add or address or are there any messages you’d like to share with the students or to Lincoln?
I think mostly just to discover who you are and hopefully, you’ll like that person that you’ve become. That you can be your authentic self and have fun doing that too. I mean, it’s a process for sure and I think being a teenager is hard in many ways. I did want to do a shoutout to the TAs. It’s been great, working with all of them and getting to know them a little bit better than any of the other students because I see them often. I think one thing I really liked about the students at Lincoln is that a lot of them were just very genuine and weren’t afraid to be on their own path, whatever that path was. I think that’s a really, really good thing to learn. I think when I was in high school, everybody wanted to be the same and do the same. I find it very refreshing that a lot of you just march to your own drummer and I applaud that and I admire that and I hope that you all continue to do that.
Riffel leaves math department
Math teacher Andrew Riffel started working at Lincoln in 2016, the same year as graduating seniors and is now leaving Lincoln along with them.
“It almost feels like I’m graduating with the class of 2020,” he said.
Prior to working at Lincoln, Riffel taught classes at Portland State University and went to India for a gap year. In high school, Riffel liked to sing, and is currently part of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Choir, and has sung with the Oregon Repertory Singers.
While at Lincoln, Riffel taught students in all grades and many different math classes including Newcomer/Foundational Mathematics.
“I’m not sure everyone knows about our small-scale Newcomer program at Lincoln High School” Riffel explained. “We have a couple dozen English Language Learners, and many of them are unaccompanied minors who have fled from difficult circumstances in their home countries.”
For the past two years, Riffel has enjoyed teaching these students foundational mathematics.
“I grew up speaking Spanish and it’s been a lot of fun learning math vocabulary in Spanish while working with the Latinx kids,” he said.
Overall, Riffel found the Lincoln staff very supportive and appreciative, and he noted the students as special, and enjoyed interacting with them over the years.
“[The students] have an astonishing level of maturity and candid ‘realness’ that I’d never witnessed from my students before,” Riffel said, “It’s been so much fun getting to know many of you and inspiring to see you grow into yourselves.”
In the fall, Riffel will be teaching at Catlin Gabel’s Upper School but plans on visiting Lincoln often. Riffel wanted to share some words of advice for the departing class of 2020 as well as all other students at Lincoln.
“Be adventurous and explore, but look for those people who build you up and provide you with stability” said Riffel, “Look for classes or extracurriculars that feel like home. Hang on to those people and communities. Life is long, and they’ll provide you with fulfillment, support and purpose.”
Q&A with Scott Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has been a special education case manager at Lincoln for 15 years.
Tell me a little bit about what you did on a normal school day.
My normal school day involved ensuring that the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for Lincoln High School students were being implemented. Each year, [my] students [came from] all four grade levels and multiple disabilities. Teaching, counseling, consulting with teachers, assisting with coursework, testing, organizing, scheduling and facilitating meetings were [also] all a part of my day. The most important part of my day, however, was ensuring that the Learning Center was a positive place to go for the fantastic students I was privileged enough to work with.
What was your favorite part about Lincoln?
My classroom was located close to the Drama and Music departments. Listening to students regularly create has been such a joy. Unlocking my door in the morning while students were singing, or the piano was playing, is a fringe benefit that I’ll never forget.
What is your favorite memory from all of the years you worked at Lincoln?
My favorite memories include the regular and thoughtful student activism that I’d see year after year. The collective student expression on issues such as gun violence, justice and systemic racism filled my spirit with hope and gratitude.
What was the most difficult part of your job?
Without a doubt, the most difficult part of the job involved the chronic understaffing of the special education department in a comprehensive high school of [around] 1700 students. I never resolved this, though I did try to bring it to light. Also, on a lighter note, preparing and eating lunch in a relaxed manner during a 30-minute time period [was extremely difficult]. This I never resolved either.
What will you miss most after you leave?
I will miss working with students and their families. It’s been an honor. Such brilliant spirits!
What do you plan on doing in retirement?
In retirement, I plan to continue working in areas involving service. I have some ideas. I may briefly [serve as a] substitute [teacher at schools in the district]. I also plan to continue to surf, and I look forward to getting into the water more during the fall, the time when Oregon [surfing conditions] are so good. I’m almost 60, so I need to get out there while I can. My wife and I will travel, and I have a long list of home projects for my 100 year old home. And golf. Yes, more golf is in my future.
Q&A with Ren Johns
Why are you leaving teaching?
I’m leaving teaching because I have been working on a side project for the past few years, helping families in the Portland metro area find child care. It all started because I had such a hard time finding child care for my own small children, but I realized this is actually a huge problem in our community. Every county in Oregon is considered a child care desert, meaning there is one daycare slot for every 3 kids who need one under the age of two! This is so unacceptable to me – how are people supposed to work without having safe (and don’t even get me started on affordable) options of places that can watch their kids? I’m fired up about this and want to help families figure it out.
Who will you miss the most when you leave?
First and foremost, I will miss my AVID students who I’ve had the privilege of working with for 4 years and who will be graduating this year! I will miss the surprising unexpected things students say, their goofy jokes, that fantastic moment when you can see someone else really understand something, the way my freshmen always remind me how uncool I am…all of it. I will miss incredible colleagues from whom I have learned so much.
If you had one piece of advice that you could give to an incoming teacher who is new to the field of teaching, what would you say to him/her?
I would tell new teachers to sign up for the PPS Mentoring Program, to find at least one great colleague in their dept to help them figure out the ropes, and to listen to what your students – when something is not working, they will always tell you.most when you leave?
Q&A with Nancy Cameron
What did you like most about your job?
Seeing students learn. I enjoyed talking with them, having interactions with them, as well as interacting with other staff members.
What are you going to miss most about teaching at Lincoln?
The ‘hands-on’ lab activities that students found fun to do.
How did you get into biology?
I really liked life science when I was in high school. At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian when in college. However, I soon realized that I would adopt every animal that came to the vet clinic. Another good experience was when I worked as a camp counselor and teacher during the summers. So, eventually, the two favorites (life science and teaching) joined, and I soon became a biology teacher.
What do you plan to do in your retirement?
Have fun!! Ride my Harley-Davidson. Tour the country. Run trails. Read a book.
What was your favorite experience at Lincoln and why?
Lincoln is at its best when students are able to share their talents. Many memorable experiences throughout the year: Homecoming week (each day is different), Valentine’s Day and the singing telegrams, the art show and display, and senior awards. I’m not sure I should say it…. senior pranks, as well. How fun! I will always remember the geese in the science hall!
Do you have any advice or last words for the students and faculty at Lincoln?
Yes. Be strong and resilient; Use your voice, but be wise in how you use it. And, most of all: take care of yourselves. I love you all; you have been a great part of my life! Virtual hugs!