by Erica Linnik, NHS Member
Mrs. Bennett, one of Fair Lawn High School’s newest staff members, is actively inspiring her students to grow into their best selves with a method she is most passionate about: teaching English. Having been teaching for thirteen years, Mrs. Bennett notes that the most fulfilling part of her job is seeing students coming from basic level classes who lack confidence in their reading and writing abilities “rise through the ranks.” Not even the global pandemic could stop Mrs. Bennett from fulfilling her recurring goal, who continued to provide thoughtful, daily instruction during quarantine prior to joining the Fair Lawn School District. This passion for teaching and inspiring students sparked inside her at the age of six, when she corrected her first grade teacher who made a slight mistake in reading the hour hand when teaching how to tell time. Delighted at the attentiveness of her student, young Mrs. Bennett was called up to the front of the room so that she could teach the class. Immediately, our then starry-eyed teacher realized she “loved it and thought it was the best thing ever.”
To Mrs. Bennett, literature is not confined to the classroom setting, but instead serves as a way of life. Simply put, Mrs. Bennett says, “My daughter is four, and I am trying to figure out what the proper age is to make her read Harry Potter.” Named after Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, her daughter is a first-hand witness of her mother’s love for English, who is actively searching for her reading-level appropriate pop-up book versions of the franchise. Standing as a devout Ravenclaw, Mrs. Bennett shares her sorting justification by expressing that, “It’s about what you value, and of the four houses, I value intelligence the most because I think that bravery gets you in trouble, being loyal gets you in trouble, and being ambitious is the worst thing, in my opinion.” Coming from Mrs. Bennett herself, a devout Harry Potter fan and animated teacher, to think for oneself is one of the most valuable traits a person could have.
The experience of teaching ultimately exposes one to the presence of lingering classroom cultures. “Students tend to get so wrapped up thinking that they aren’t good at something or that they can’t do something that it prevents them from ever trying,” Mrs. Bennett notes and in turn confides in the student body, “You’re way more confident and capable than you think you are.” The fear of failure is something that in her years of teaching suppresses the potential of bright students, where the fear to fail prevents students from ever trying new opportunities. Mrs. Bennett believes that all individuals should know that, “They are so much stronger and better at stuff than they think they are.”
Above all, Mrs. Bennett reminds all those around her that meaning can be found in the simplest of things in life. “I had a fortune cookie once that said, ‘you will make many changes before settling satisfactorily’ and I really do live by that because I do not think that the idea is to be constantly having great times and having these amazing adventures. I think it is about finding what it means to be content and happy with what you have without having to constantly reach for more.” Both a FLHS teacher and life’s disciple, Mrs. Bennett continues to inspire us all with her wit, intelligence, and compassion!