The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Jeremy Burnham

Teacher Profile Series: Washtucna teacher Lisa Landstrom

New Washtucna teacher uses past hardships to better empathize with students

Series: Teacher Profile | Story 10

Last updated 10/3/2019 at 3:46pm

A new Washtucna teacher hopes her experience with homlessness will help her in dealing with students who are facing that, and other difficulties.

Lisa Landstrom, who already has seven years of teaching experience, decided she needed a change in her life and left her teaching job in the Spokane area to come teach in Washtucna. She will teach fourth and fifth grades.

Landstrom grew up on the Oregon Coast in Astoria, where she graduated from Lewis and Clark Christian Academy, a small private Christian high school.

“I got a really good education there,” Landstrom. “I went to college right after high school, but then did the work thing and had kids.”

Out of high school, Landstrom taught on and off as a substitute at some Christain schools. She worked at Safeway as a store trainer and then as a district trainer.

A desire to be closer to family led her to Spokane.

“My sister moved to Spokane,” Landstrom said. “And then, my other sister moved to Spokane and my parents moved to Spokane.”

While in Spokane, she enrolled at Whitworth University where she majored in liberal studies with a focus in social work. After getting her B.A, she earned her master’s, also at Whitworth, in teaching.

Her life in Spokane was not always easy. She attended Whitworth as a single mother.

“I had some really hard times,” Landstrom said. “It was really, really hard since I moved to Spokane. There was a time we were homeless. With two kids and being homeless, it’s kind of tough.”

Landstrom said Whitworth helped get her family through the hard times.

“I can’t help but sing Whitworth’s praises,” Landstrom said. “People at Whitworth looked out for me. And [Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners] in Spokane helped me out and I was able to get back on my feet.”

Landstrom found these times frustrating and disheartening.

“I had a degree, I was educated,” Landstrom said. “And I was homeless. That really changed my perspective because you think people who are homeless are druggies and people who aren’t responsible. So it changed my whole perspective a lot.”

After earning her master’s, Landstrom taught at a small school about 30 miles north of Spokane. She took that new perspective into the classroom.

“When I went into teaching and taught in a high poverty area, I was able to understand the kids’ situation a whole lot better than if I had never gone through that,” Landstrom said. “I’ve learned if you don’t know where you’re going to be living, if you don’t know you’re going to eat, if you don’t know who’s going to be with you or how your circumstances are going to work out when you go home, you can’t learn at school.”

Landstrom said her mindset has made her a better teacher.

“It makes me more empathetic to the kids,” Landstrom said. “It really changed how I’ve taught and understand the kids of trauma now. Which is something teachers didn’t used to have to worry about [as much].”

Landstrom said kids are often dealing with more than they used to.

“Now it’s normal for kids to be dealing with having divorced families or some sort of adverse childhood events,” Landstrom said. “It used to be that a child would have maybe one thing that was messed up in their lives that they had to deal with. Now, an average child has four or five or six of these adverse childhood events that they have to overcome to be able to focus on school.”

While family took Landstrom to Spokane, a longing for adventure brought her to Washtucna.

“My children are grown and moved out, and I wanted to do something adventurous,” Landstrom said. “Moving to where I knew no one, in the middle of nowhere, was adventurous.”

The first day of school has come and gone, and Landstrom said it felt like the first days of school she experienced as a child.

“There’s definitely the same excitement as a child has,” Landstrom said. “Here it’s hard because all the kids already know each other so it’s like I’m the new kid.”

Making the first day of school special for the students is important to Landstrom.

“I work really hard trying to make this a place they are wanting to come,” Landstrom said. “How they feel when they leave the first day is going to change whether or not they want to come back for the rest of the year. So my favorite part is making sure they have a really good day so they want to come back.”


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