“I see my classroom as an extension of my home, so I nurture my students as I would my daughter and instill in them the same beliefs and rules we have at home. Trust is the most important aspect between a teacher and a student. Through one-on-one conferences about their work, I learn quite a bit about my students’ lives, and eventually, the trust develops."
“My students need to see that I respect them all and will listen to anything they want me to know because their thoughts and beliefs are important to me. I want them to know they are all good readers and writers no matter where they are in their learning journey."
“I also try to incorporate a lot of humor into my classes, and laughing together is always good medicine."
More about Stevie Stevens
Began teaching at ULS: 2001
Bachelor of Arts in English, Mount Holyoke College
Learning becomes authentic when students are given a choice: “Student choice drives our class. I never know what topic they will choose to write about or what book they will choose to read, so every day is fresh and interesting. In terms of teaching concepts and skills, that is also individualized. Not every student needs a refresher on capitalization, for example, so I tailor my teaching based on what they need.”
Creating readers and writers: “I am energized by pairing students with books they love and from seeing what they are capable of creating with their writing. Every year, students produce memorable pieces that I use the following year as mentor texts.”
Fun fact, hidden talent, or secret weapon: A cool life experience is while I was studying at the University of Sydney, I took a trip up north to Cairns where I galloped a horse named Fred through a densely-wooded forest. The path was so narrow, I could feel branches breaking against my legs, but Fred knew where he was going. Thankfully, when we reached a clearing, I was able to slow him down. It was definitely an adrenaline rush.
Upper School English Teacher and Associate Director of College Guidance [email protected]
“My approach to teaching is to make good literature the center of the classroom experience, to equip students with some of the intellectual techniques for approaching those texts so that they, too, can use books as the grist for doing the hard millwork of examining the world around them and their place in it. "
“Several of my English and history teachers, when I was a student at ULS, convinced me that the unexamined life was not worth living. The best literature affirms us in our flickering virtues, forces us to repair our tattered ideologies, boldly calls us to account for our foibles, and prods us to become the best versions of ourselves that we can be.”
More about Walter Butzu:
Began teaching at ULS: 1992
Bachelor of General Studies, University of Michigan
Masters of Arts in Education, Rackham, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Coming to an English classroom near you…
My brother-in-law, who is a Medievalist at the University of Michigan, has got me enthused about student reading teams, where each member of the team has a specific task to perform as the team reads a critical piece of fiction and prepares to present their reading and their analysis of it to the rest of the class.
Sometimes the most rewarding classes are the ones you work the hardest in any student who is willing to do the difficult work of fully engaging a text and is audacious enough to give the idea of the text a full audience before forming an opinion. And at Liggett, I've been fortunate that so very many of the students I have taught fit that description.
Hidden talent: I nearly majored in violin performance.
“My approach to teaching is to make everyone feel like family. Students work their hardest when they feel like part of a family.
“Art energy is contagious, so if one student gets the fever, it translates to the whole. I am the luckiest teacher on the planet because I get to work with truly lovely people every day. I love seeing the sparkle in my students’ eyes when they are embarking on something new to them and the sense of accomplishment they have upon the works’ completion.”
More about Karen Katanick
Began teaching at ULS: 1987
Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, College for Creative Studies Master’s of Fine Arts, Arizona State University
Being flexible and making discoveries: “Because of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, I had to bring a lot of new assignments into my classes. In Design in Crafts Media, we had to abandon our glasswork for salt dough clay objects that we formed and painted. I discovered that salt dough as a medium has lots of possibilities and can be made just about anywhere. My darkroom photo students had no darkrooms at home, so we used digital media and explored looking at the stay-at-home order as an opportunity to tell a story about the unique time we are living through.”
Fun fact, hidden talent, or secret weapon: “I have several secret weapons that I use in my classes. My favorites are the Alan Trammell X - that marks the spot where Mr. Trammell stood when he visited the school and taught my students the hamster songs in the darkroom. While with the Detroit Tigers, Mr. Trammell visited campus with Mr. Spicer, parent, and benefactor. He leaned against the door that separates the kiln room from my classroom and watched me teach a photography class. When he left, I put an X of tape on the floor. Whenever one of my students has a bad day or is feeling down, I have them stand on the Alan Trammell X to lift me up. It’s magical and works!”
“In the darkroom, when everyone is working, and it’s too quiet, I like to teach the students the hamster songs. They were written by a friend of mine about the hamster I had as an art student at CCS. One hamster song is happy, and the other sad, but both of them get everyone singing and enjoying the time in the dark.”
Karen is also a 4A co-advisor, the Spectrum advisor, external service activity sponsor, and arts extracurricular advisor.
“Textbooks are only a tool for application and a springboard for ideas. Daily communication is essential in my classes and it also provides an opportunity for self-expression.”
Staying on target
“This year, I concentrated on keeping a 90% target language use in my classes. To that end, I created opportunities for self-expression with short directed conversation topics where the students could communicate freely. They often took center stage organizing debates and reviewing games. In the literature class, we had a book club every Friday where the students created questions and directed discussions. I was impressed by their questions and comments about a book that I would not consider an easy read.”
More about Georgina Milenius:
Began teaching at ULS: 1999
Education: Bachelor of Arts in communications, University of Sacred Heart.
Where she finds motivation :
“Without a doubt, my biggest motivation is my students. Watching them work hard to master a concept is humbling to me. The effort they put forth every day is my inspiration to keep going.”
Fun fact, hidden talent, or secret weapon:
“I have traveled the world and have had many unique experiences such as being in Berlin in 1989 to see The Wall come down. Later, I attended a Pink Floyd concert that took place right in the area between the two walls formerly known as the ‘death strip.’ I’ll never forget it!”
“I have lived all over the country and in two other countries. I think these experiences give me a unique perspective. I teach because I love to give and receive positive energy from students! It is fun to explain how to play a game and watch the students enjoy it. I especially like it when the students decide to pursue a sport based in part because of what they have experienced in physical education class.
More about Mike Costanzo
Began teaching at ULS: 2015
Bachelor of Arts, Kenyon College
Masters Degree in Athletic Administration, Ohio University
A look ahead
“Each class every year is a new challenge. It is a thrill to see students who I have taught before grow and mature. Add incoming children to Liggett, combined with different class groups, and you have a whole new class to teach. I find that to be very exciting.”
“I have always approached education with the idea that every child can succeed. Getting to know my students as individuals and teaching toward their strengths and interests is very important to me and why I continue to enjoy being at Liggett. The allowance for student voice and choice is important to me.
“My daily interactions with our learners inside and outside of the classroom is the most important part of my job. It guides all of my decisions and puts the well-being of our students and families first. There is no one size fits all.
More about Peggy Dettlinger
Began teaching at ULS: 1990
Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Miami University
Masters in Education in Special Education with a certification in learning disabilities, University of Detroit Mercy
I’m still learning.
“Remote learning was an unexpected but rewarding new experience for me. Learning new tools and ways of demonstrating understanding pushed all of us to be creative and take risks; some of the same skills we ask of our learners. Learning alongside the teachers and students was a benefit to our time away from school. Working with such a dedicated team of educators keeps me motivated to stay current and keep learning.”
I enjoy spending time up north at my cottage on Lake Huron.
“Teaching truly offers the opportunity to be a life-long learner. I am one of those people who loves school. The opportunity to interact with motivated students and insightful colleagues is something for which I am truly grateful.
I care a great deal about the skills of reading and writing. When I was in the classroom, I loved working through challenging texts and discussing meaningful ideas.”
More about Elizabeth Jamett
Began teaching at ULS: 1991
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Goucher College Master of Arts in Government, University of Virginia
“I want them to think beyond their talents, whether it be sports, music, theater, etc., and consider learning styles and character traits that help define them and make them dynamic individuals. I believe it's powerful to embrace strengths and establish strategies that bridge knowledge and skill in the classroom. One way in which I help students find their own strength is by sharing stories of individuals who overcame difficulties in school to become successful in a variety of professions. My hope is that every student can identify with at least one of these success stories and finds a hero to emulate.”
Her position is unique “As Liggett's Lower School Literacy Specialist, I am in a unique position to interact with faculty, students, and parents. I collaborate with Lower School teachers to help provide a strong, cohesive, research-based reading, and writing program. I work individually with students to build their phonemic awareness and decoding skills to improve reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. And I am available to parents to serve as a resource for at-home strategies and resources. This spectrum of responsibility allows me to support the whole Liggett Lower School community in relation to literacy.”
More about Elisa Cornell
Began teaching at ULS: 1995
Education: Bachelor of Arts: Denison University; Major in Psychology
Post-Baccalaureate: Queens College; Major in Education Masters of Education: Wayne State University; Concentration in Reading ZA Endorsement for Early Childhood, Michigan
At the end of the day, it’s about the students “I'm humbled to mentor incredibly creative, hard-working, and intelligent students who demonstrate perseverance and engagement in challenging work. Their commitment to improving their reading skills motivates me to find ways to maintain the necessary structured framework for phonemic instruction and still have fun through games and movement.”
Fun Fact: I enjoy playing pickleball with friends, and can often be seen riding my bike through the Grosse Pointes.