Education’s Primary Impact
Perspective from a fourth-generation teacher
Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander
Growing up, Laynie Gottsch thought the point of school was to torture students, and the teacher was the special mechanism through which schools achieved that goal. Now, as a 10th grade English teacher at Norman High School, her perception of the industry has obviously changed.
“It wasn’t until college that I realized I was passionate about English,” Gottsch says. “And of all the professions in the world, a teacher has the single greatest chance to impact lives.”
Gottsch grew up in a family of educators. Her mom, former Oklahoma First Lady Kim Henry, was a teacher, as were Gottsch’s grandmother, Audré, and her great-grandparents, Tom and Alma Henry.
“My mom will kill me for this, but she didn’t really play a huge role in my decision to become a teacher,” she says. “As an adult, realizing I am following in my mom’s footsteps is incredible to me. I believe my mom is one of the greatest women this world has ever seen, and I am honored and humbled to have become anything like her.”
Gottsch moved to Turkey after graduating OU. Last year, she and her husband Ben moved back to Oklahoma, along with their 1-year-old daughter Magnolia, or “Noli.”
“This is my fifth year teaching, but my first year teaching in Oklahoma,” Gottsch says. “The classroom has changed since the days when my mom was teaching, but I think there have always been and will always continue to be amazing students that blow you away with their creativity and ability to take a simple assignment and make it extraordinary. The major differences facing teachers today are all things electronic. I doubt my mom ever had a student playing Fortnite while he was supposed to be writing a paper.”
Another difference, she said, is how in the past students relied on books and their teachers for knowledge.
“Now knowledge is at their fingertips. That means our primary job as teachers has shifted,” Gottsch says. “We must teach students to learn, rather than teaching them information.”
With each new generation comes the onset of new and unusual ways of schooling. It’s no longer simply a teacher standing with a piece of chalk in front of a blackboard.
“Norman High School is part of Apple’s ‘One-to-One’ program, so each teacher and student receive a MacBook Air,” Gottsch says. “This tool has so much untapped potential, but in the day-to-day, it’s a time and paper saver. It also allows us to do projects that would be inconceivable otherwise. We also have a fantastic room in our library called the ‘Makerspace’ where students can use a 3D printer, Adobe Suite, stop motion animation, embroidery and many other things.”
Education in Oklahoma has seen some trying times in recent years, but Gottsch is optimistic about the future.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what’s on the horizon for Oklahoma education, but I am hopeful,” she says. “We have made great strides in terms of awareness. The district I live in just elected a teacher straight out of the classroom into the Senate. We have a long road ahead, but I believe within the next 10 years, Oklahoma could be number one in the nation. It will take hard work and dedication from Oklahomans everywhere, but I truly believe we are on the right track.”
Today, Gottsch said, most people in her school don’t know that her father was governor nearly 10 years ago. She says her legacy of public service will be in the classroom.
“I never stopped to consider my place as a fourth-generation educator until my mom mentioned it to me,” she says. “I have always been really passionate about opportunities to love other people and positively impact lives, and that’s what teaching is to me.”