Once a general, always a general

W-L Welcomes Back Former Student Ms. Patrice Splan


Courtesy of Patrice Splan

Alumni and teacher of our school, Ms. Splan poses for a photo.

It would be reasonable to assume that as a new teacher, the school may be a fairly unknown place, something that will require some time to learn to navigate. However, for Ms. Patrice Splan, it is the opposite, as she is an alum of the school. She returned this past year as a student teacher for one of her former English teachers, Mrs. Sarah Becker, meaning Ms. Splan worked under her instruction as a part of learning how to teach effectively. 

Mrs. Becker, along with the school’s recently retired psychology teacher Mr. Doug Grove, are who Ms. Splan credits with inspiring her to teach. 

“When I got to college, I still wasn’t super sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I either wanted to focus on English or psychology,” Ms. Splan said. “I loved my teachers who taught those subjects at W-L, Mrs. Becker and Mr. Grove, and I was like, ‘Man, I could do that, too’…  As a high school student, both of them helped me realize that teaching isn’t just about books or grammar, it can be about connecting people. I also was a tutor in high school working with middle and elementary school students, and I just loved building friendships with them.” 

As a student teacher during the previous school year, Ms. Splan continued to learn from her former teacher. 

“When you’re a student, it’s easy to not see what your teachers do behind the scenes, so it was eye-opening to see how much she takes into consideration all of her students and also for the school,” Ms. Splan said. “Mrs. Becker was such a great mentor because she gave me full control of the classes and the work I was leading, and served as a springboard for my ideas.” 

Later in the year, Ms. Splan became a long-term  substitute teacher for Ms. Emily Roszkowski , the family and consumer sciences teacher at the school. This left Ms. Splan with 200 new students and a new curriculum to teach. However, what made teaching during last year the most challenging was that it was mainly done virtually. 

“Teaching virtually adds a new layer of difficulty, because there’s a physical and visual divide,” Ms. Splan said. “It made it harder to connect with students and have them connect with each other, since it really took a concentrated effort on both sides.” 

Interacting with students is Ms. Splan’s favorite part of teaching, and is something that she has done internationally as well as in the United States. 

“I received a Fulbright scholarship at James Madison University, [where I graduated from in 2019], and used it to spend seven months teaching in Austria right before COVID hit,” Ms. Splan said. “I taught at three secondary schools, took courses at the university that was in the city, and conducted community based research and programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which included sports and crafts, that many refugee families in the area took part in as well.” 

Through her teaching and running of programs in Austria, Ms. Splan experienced cultural and language barriers, which she learned to overcome. 

“I know German due to my family, but there was still a language barrier because they spoke a different dialect,” Ms. Splan said. “It was easier teaching in Austria than it was virtually because I could still connect with my students in person, whereas virtually there was physical distance.” 

This year, Ms. Splan will be teaching English 9 and English 9 Intensified, and is looking forward to it. 

“Building those connections that were a bit more challenging during COVID is really key to me, as is making sure that my students feel like a part of the W-L community,” Ms. Splan said. “Obviously I want them to grow in their English skills and composition, but I really want my ninth graders to get acclimated to this community, and feel like it’s their community too, where they have a voice. I can’t wait to be a part of it.” 

For a well-traveled person like Ms. Splan, many would think that she would not want to return to her roots. However, she said it feels natural. 

“I definitely had the inkling that I would want to come back to W-L because I loved my experience here as a student, and just really enjoyed coming into the school,” Ms. Splan said. “Whenever I got sick, I would always want to be at the school, just because I loved the community — I wanted to be there, and I wanted to be a part of it… I’ve always felt so comfortable at W-L, so coming back felt like walking into a big hug.”