The Teacher: Lisa Whelan

December 11, 2011

As I’ve said before, I adored my teachers. Not only did they provide an education and care during those oh so important formative years, but they lovingly and gently stamped their impression into my memory.  I’m grateful that most of those impressions were filled with warmth and knowledge.

There is no doubt that Lisa doing the same for others as my teachers did for me.  Thank you Lisa, you are making a difference and they will remember!



where are you from?
I grew up in Orange County and went to college in Santa Barbara. After graduating I moved to Sydney, Australia for a year and a half and eventually ended up in Los Angeles.

why do you teach?
I have been asked this question before, and there are two things that stand out the most. First, the immediate feeling of satisfaction that is felt when a kid just “gets it.”  That moment you have with a student who is having a difficult time with a lesson and then you see them perk up, and their eyes are brighter, because the light bulb went on and they suddenly understand. The other component that sticks with me is the idea that all the lessons I teach, no matter how small, either started a foundation of knowledge or built upon a foundation already created by parents and other teachers. These little girls and boys will carry the ideas and values I have helped to instill in them through life as they become men, women, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.

who and what do you teach?
I teach multiple subjects for a third grade class at Westwood Charter School.

why did you become a teacher?
I was working in the music industry for four years and I had what many would consider a dream job. I was young and making a lot of money. I was going to Europe and the Grammys and had access to an expense account for wining and dining at various business lunches. One would assume that I had everything I wanted. I met my husband four years into this career and I didn’t want to  spend my nights schmoozing with industry people anymore. I wanted to be home with him, and I could already see myself creating a family with him. My priorities changed. I will never forget the day he came home to find me crocheting, drinking tea, and baking a pie. I think we both realized that my life was moving in a different direction. He inspired me to take some time and figure out what I really wanted to do. Teaching was a profession I had always considered, so I left my cushy job, went back to school and landed my first teaching job at a low-income school in South L.A. I immediately felt like I was giving doing more, here, than I ever had in the music industry.

how do you feel about the role of teachers in your society?
Under-appreciated and, yet, still incredibly important. Funding is still being cut.  Teachers are still being underpaid even though they are an important, lasting influence on a great majority of our lives. Most of the teachers I know have graduate degrees but teaching is still viewed as somewhat of a quaint profession that anyone could do.  These are the things that make it unappealing for people to pursue a career in education, when we need to make it appealing to smart, motivated people to do this job.

do you ever regret becoming a teacher?
Yes and no. The work itself doesn’t ever make me regret it. What I do regret about it is that it’s supposed to be a stable profession and the last three years I have gotten a pink slip from LAUSD.
would you encourage your child to become a teacher?
Not in a recession. Under normal circumstances, I would ask her to spend some time in a classroom before moving forward in attaining any kind of credential.

how much maternity leave do teachers get?  how many sick days?
ZERO. Full time teachers get 10 sick days per year and two personal days. If you get pregnant you can take whatever sick days you acrewed but that is it. Teachers are not offered disability insurance, so they are not paid for maternity leave unless they seek out personal disability insurance.

you’re going out on a much needed girls night. what will you do and what will you wear?
Uggghhh PANIC. I have no clue. When I was pregnant I cleared out one of my closets to make room for my maternity clothes. My “regular” clothes were moved into the garage…and somehow got mixed in with other clothes/object that were sent to Good Will. That was an awesome day.

what’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
At the moment I am cherishing an antique locket that used to belong to my husbands grandmother. I put a picture of my daughter inside so that i can see her cute little face while i am at work.

what’s your best kitchen creation?
Homemade mac and cheese is my most requested dish.

what do you collect?
I love going to flea markets to find little vintage or antique treasures. There isnt one thing that I collect. If i see something and it speaks to me, I will get it. One of my favorite pieces is my vintage sewing machine.