Distinguished Young Alumna of the Year 2018
When a difference-maker is set in motion, she not only grows personally, but she brings life, energy, and transformation to those around her. Lara Owlett ’09, MEd ’13 is a teacher, mentor, and life-long learner who is living a life with ripple effects on the next generation.
Lara, who was one of 12 finalists for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year in 2017, is a French teacher in the rural school district of Wellsboro, PA. Every other year she takes her students to France, broadening their horizons and introducing them to the transformational power of travel she has experienced in her own life.
It was actually a trip to France right after high school that sparked Lara’s own desire to become a teacher. "My world was expanded and I thought, 'I would love to open up this other world to students,’” she shares. Lara credits Eastern with setting her "in motion" as a French teacher, equipping her with knowledge and skills while also promoting personal growth.
“At Eastern I had the fortune of being surrounded by peers and professors who forced me to examine social injustices in our society. I was forced to decide how I could do my part to be God's love in a broken world. This set me in motion to work as a mentor via Big Brothers Big Sisters and to work as an advocate for students who are often marginalized in our rural community.”
In addition to the physical journeys Lara takes her students on, she also creates activities in her classroom to broaden their understanding and empathy for people and cultures different than their own.
“We often connect with French-speakers from around the world through written correspondences, Skype sessions, or other online platforms. As these connections promote a deeper understanding between cultures, it is also my hope that they begin to promote peace...even in a small way.”
While the exciting cross-cultural travel experiences and correspondence activities are definitely influencing the course of her students’ lives, Lara finds that the small moments of connection with her students throughout the year may have the biggest ripple effect of all.
“I think the biggest impact I make in the lives of my students may simply be the fact that I consistently invest in them. Last year at graduation a student who had been in my French program for four years gave me a hug and said ‘You have no idea how many times I needed you.’ That moment made me realize that a teacher's love and respect for their students can make a bigger difference than we'll ever know.”
I have no doubt that the motion of Lara’s life will continue to set others in motion in a beautiful pattern of multiplication.
This article was originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2018 Edition of Eastern Magazine. View the full magazine here.