Our Inspired Teachers: Lisa Ellenberg

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

 From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Lisa Ellenberg, BS & LS librarian

Bachelor's and master's in education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. At CGS since 1991.

During storytime at the library, the satisfying language and structure of folktales can create an enchanting bond between the children and me, lingering deliciously in the air at a story’s close. During such a moment, a kindergartener once remarked, “You’re really old, aren’t you.” At that point, I was actually a relatively young teacher. Curious, I responded, “Well, I’m a lot older than you are. How old do you think I am?” After a studied pause, she ventured a guess, “Seven?” This would be one of many opportunities over the years for the words of a child to swiftly transmit unexpected perspective, surprise, and delight.
 
Teaching requires grappling with questions, both crafting and responding thoughtfully to them. The process keeps me fascinated with my work. Every day children come to the library with questions that require me to listen and interview to discover what is really being asked. “Lisa, where is the robbing section?” I say, “Tell me more about that.” Response: “You know, like a sneak-around book, that would help you find things.” Further investigation revealed some possibilities, including that the child has an interest in techniques of espionage, or is looking to design a recess game involving capture.
 
Back to the folktales. The text of one traditional tale includes the refrain, “and the dog leaped that hedge in a single bound!” A 2nd grader with wrinkled brow quipped dryly, “Well, how else could you do it?,” instantly illuminating the truth that either you get over the hedge in a single bound or crash into it. For me, it was impossible to not add that question to the refrain as we completed the story. As their fresh eyes and minds absorb experiences, children’s questions fill me with wonder about their potential for invention. I recently heard it said, “Creation is evolution.” I am grateful to witness this every day.