First Year Teachers


Lacey Jones

The end of the 2020-2021 school year is a perfect time to check in on the new members of our Lakota West teaching staff. Starting at a new school is a big change on its own, but to start in the midst of a crazy year with COVID brought a new set of challenges. This year, Lakota West welcomed seven new teachers. I interviewed three of them —  Ms. Bell, Mr. Erickson, and Mr. Keen —  to gain insight into their experience as a first-year teacher at West. 


Ms. Bell teaches English 11 and World Literature; she previously taught at the West Freshman Building. She is also the advisor for the Inclusion and Diversity Club here. For her, this year has been good but hard. She has loved getting to teach seniors, as their “conversations can be more complex” and also really likes the English department at Main Campus. One of her favorite experiences this year has been her real-world project, entitled The Game of Life, that her seniors are doing. This project entails learning skills and facing situations they will encounter after high schools, such as writing a resume and signing a lease. Something that none of us thought we would encounter this year was COVID, and Ms. Bell expressed the challenges and lessons she has learned from it. Something new she learned as a teacher this year was adaptability, as the beginning of the school year was difficult. Engaging students without being able to do group work and other activities was a challenge as “it’s hard to engage when kids couldn’t engage with one another”. The biggest challenge for her was the masks, as recognizing students in the future will be difficult, as well as getting to know the staff without seeing their faces and getting to converse with them as often. She also learned how much more she enjoys in-person teaching. Looking forward, Ms. Bell’s goal for the next year is to improve and edit some of her lesson plans, as it is her first year teaching certain courses. 


It is Mr. Erickson’s first year as a teacher, teaching CP Geometry and Junior Math. He has loved his first year at West and has found it really fun to be involved at the school. Mr. Erickson coaches the XC and track teams at West;  outside of school, he is a Younglife leader. His favorite experiences this year include winning XC state and being able to build relationships with students. As a new teacher, being in the classroom showed Mr. Erickson how different students learn. Through that, he has realized how valuable it is to create a positive environment in his classroom. He strives to make sure each student feels a part of the class, so in turn, they have the motivation to learn in class. Mr. Erickson’s biggest challenge has been being a young and new teacher, as well as not being able to show his full demeanor due to the masks. While COVID has made some interaction difficult, he stated that students and staff “are united under this challenge.” His goals going into this next school year are relationship and student-based. Mr. Erickson wants to “continue to prioritize relationships” and teaching over continuously delivering material. He also hopes to continue to be a positive role model for students. 


West has also welcomed Mr. Keen, who teaches the INCUbatoredu program, the new entrepreneurship class here at West. Keen taught at East since 2014 and, before coming to Lakota, taught over a decade in San Francisco. His first year at West has been “awesome,” and he has felt that the students and staff are amazing. Mr. Keen’s favorite experience has been “getting to know [his] students and doing work together throughout this crazy year.” This year has been a reminder to him of how important community is and that a lot of great things are done when people work together. He stated that “we have all gone through a lot during this pandemic, but it is amazing to see so many folks up to the challenges.” Since he works half the day at East, Mr. Keen’s biggest challenge has been traveling between schools and not being able to be a part of the school community the whole day. When asked what his goals going into the next year are, he said he is looking forward to building up the INCubatoredu program. It’s been a great year for the class and he thinks next year will be even better. Also, a new business course is launching next year called ACCELeratoredu. He stated, “In this class, current INCubatoredu students will have the opportunity to launch their startup business!” It will be exciting to see everything this program and Mr. Keen will continue to bring to West!


It is clear that students and staff believe these teachers are fantastic additions here at West, and it will be exciting to see the continued impact they make over the next few years.