By: Savi Raghuraman | Student Life Editor
February 15, 2018
Although Mrs. Bennett has been at San Clemente High School for just three of her twenty-five years of teaching experience, she has quickly become an inspiration to students on our campus with her warm-hearted and empowering approach to learning. Between teaching Honors English II and AP/IB Language and Composition, coordinating the EL (English Learner) Program, and discussing the latest breaking news or groundbreaking novel with students during passing period, Mrs. Bennett plays a influential role in how those at this school perceive and use language. I met with Mrs. Bennett to learn more about her as a person and the thought process behind how she teaches.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I started volunteering in a classroom for adults, and I realized just how much more I enjoyed it than the business job that I was doing after college. I just found it to be so much more rewarding and loved the classroom experience. I’ve always loved school, but I didn’t think I wanted to be a teacher, and then after this volunteering experience, I knew that was what I wanted to do.
Where did you go to college, and what did you study?
I went to UC San Diego, and I studied English and American Literature.
What do you think makes your teaching style unique?
I try to do a lot of student interaction and collaboration. I tend not to be much of a lecturer. I may tell stories or set up a lesson with basic information, but then I would prefer to give them the task and have them work together and figure out an answer. It may take a little longer, it may not be exactly the “right” answer–and, in English, we always know there’s a range of right answers–but I feel like the skills students learn when they have that opportunity to work together are much more valuable than anything I might tell them and they forget next year.
What do you love most about your job?
Throughout my career I’ve had chances to work more in administration, or curriculum development, which were out of the classroom. Every time I do that, I end up coming back to the classroom. My favorite thing about my job is working with students. I love being on a school campus, being part of the school community, and working with kids.
Outside of teaching, what are your favorite things to do?
I love to travel. I’m going to England over spring break and visiting Macbeth’s castle in Scotland. I go visit my family up in the Bay area. If I’m not in San Clemente, I’m probably up there, in San Francisco or Oakland. I love to read. I like to hike around town, and I do a lot of camping. Also, I rescue pets. Right now, I have two dogs–one is very crazy–from the San Clemente Pet Project Foundation, and I have one cat. In the last two years, I’ve lost, through natural causes, eight pets. They all died of old age. So now all my pets are young.
As an avid consumer of news, why do you think coverage of current events is important to address in class?
I’m hoping that students are looking at news because I think it’s really important. Often, I’ll find a range. I’ll find some students who already read a lot of the news and are very aware of current events and then a fair amount that haven’t been engaged at all. I do see people come in with preconceived notions and stances. One of our curriculum guidelines and goals is to listen to other perspectives, so being able to figure out if the news is from a reliable source, if it’s challenging or confirming what you already think, and seeing how news can be confirmed or rejected based on the trends is important. It’s important to become aware of that bigger world, and that’s what the news does for us: it tells us what’s happening outside of our little world.
What are some of your long-term goals?
Well, I hope this is my last job before I retire, although I’m not planning to retire anytime soon. I’m actually teaching a course for teachers at Concordia University. I love working with new teachers; I love being able to mentor and to discuss ways to improve education. I’m really interested in education policy, so I would be interested in working somehow with that in the long run, looking at ways we can continuously improve education for all students. One thing, as far as SCHS, that I’m looking forward to is continuously working on creating a more inclusive culture. I work with our English learners, and I really am seeing it moving in a positive direction towards having all of our students feeling included, having access to activities or sports or whatever part of the school they choose to be a part of. That would be a long-term goal that is more within the scope of the next three to five years: establishing that inclusive, welcoming, supportive culture, recognizing that diversity makes us better, and stronger. Every person has a place here.
Mrs. Bennett is no doubt a wonderful addition to the SCHS teaching staff. We are lucky to have a such a thoughtful, dedicated, and involved teacher!