The Legend of Lori Fisher
Written By: Billie Brand
Lori Fisher is one of the best and brightest of the human species, so it was no surprise to any of the students that dubbed her an ‘iconic teacher’ or the rest of the Animas High School Community when she won the award for Best Educator in Durango.
The winners were announced in the Durango Herald on September 27th for the 2019 Best of Durango voting poll.
She thoughtfully responded by saying, “I feel pretty honored. To win that, people had to vote for me. To get recognized as a teacher is rare.”
She has been with Animas from the beginning, even counting the heads of the first graduating class of 2013 when they were freshmen because the school needed a certain amount of students to even have enough funding.
She found this wonderful teaching community in a Google search: “Charter-based public school”. She thought: “this seems aligned,” when she found Animas, which was closely based on the school she was currently working at, High Tech High.
Lori started her journey when she left her small town, Homer, Alaska, in order to pursue her BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California.
She found a job as a fundraiser and lobbyist for YouthBuild USA, but did not like writing grants at all so she broke up with her boyfriend of six years and went on a trip to Nepal by herself. She found herself in Thailand and became a dive-master.
She had planned to live in Thailand indefinitely to revel in her love of water and Thai food, but falling in love with one John Fisher threw a wrench into her plans.
She originally traveled back to the U.S. to sell all of her belongings but found herself applying to the Stanford Teacher Education Program instead.
Although she claims that her favorite activity was wearing her Berkley shirt on the Stanford Campus, she mentioned that her biggest influences to her teaching methods were her mentors at Stanford.
One of which, Sam Wineburg, Professor of Education and History, responded to Lori’s talent and success: "From the moment I met Lori, I knew she was going to be a superstar teacher. She was open-minded and understood the social studies curriculum in a global context, at a time when many still did not. It is no surprise to me that she is being recognized for her talents. It's about time!"
Lori commented that the effectiveness of her teaching lies in knowing her students. I was noticing this when she taught me last year. She taught me that knowing and trusting your teacher is just as important.
Lori told me on a camping trip in my sophomore year that when she was growing up in Homer, Alaska, she had to create fun with her friends by going to abandoned factories and sliding down wood chip piles or by repelling down water towers.
She has somehow found a way to bring fun and engagement into her classroom while balancing the core conflicts of teaching.
She spoke to knowing how to support and challenge students: “the first thing you have to do is know your students. If you don’t do that you’re flying blind. Support comes with experience and time. A lot of times what you’re doing for struggling students is helping everybody. Individual feedback is the other piece.”
Lori has been cracking the code of teaching since 2006, and I will forever be a different writer and person because of her.
Lori started her career thinking that she “could be an okay teacher”. She has taught all of us that she’s not just “okay”. She’s the best.
October 21, 2019