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Teacher Interview – IB coordinator Elizabeth

Before starting at Nesbru in 2005, Elizabeth Laney-Mortenson taught Advanced Placement US and European history for nine years in Memphis area public schools. Prior to that, she spent a year in the Czech Republic as a lecturer in the English department of the University of West Bohemia teaching American Studies and academic writing. She recently became Nesbru’s new IB coordinator, after having been the CAS coordinator. She continues as MUN director and teaching history and English B.

Being responsible for several students doing well and completing the IB must be hard sometimes, so when I asked her what she enjoys the most about being the IB coordinator she answered: “Wow that’s a hard question! There are some days I don’t enjoy any of it! But I think it’s that I actually get to meet all of the students in every class, and to see what they’re doing, because as a teacher you sometimes get really focused on the group of students you have, and so for me it’s been really nice to see IB classes as a whole, and I like that.” She also tells her students, “I want you to be able to choose what you want to do, and not just take whatever job you can get, or whatever university will take you based on your grades.” This is to motivate them to do their very best, and not be limited in their opportunities, as the IB gives you unlimited and global opportunities.

Motivating and helping students during their IB years is one thing, but what about her own kids? I knew she had children, so when hearing her previous responses I had to ask if she wanted her own kids to do the IB here at Nesbru? “YES! Yes, well we don’t live in Akershus, we live in Oslo, so their closest IB school is Blinderen vgs, and, yes, every time we go by I say; that’s where you’re going to do the IB!’” she laughed. She did mention that her children are still a bit too young to know exactly what that is, but I suppose ignorance is bliss in this case…

Having taught history and English for several years, I was wondering if there were any other subjects she would find interesting to teach. She responded with TOK, a subject she’d requested for years and never got. “Definitely TOK, I think it’s such an important part of the IB, and first as CAS coordinator and now as IB coordinator I really do see why we do TOK. Even though the students say ‘I don’t know why we do TOK’ sometimes, but I think it’s such an important subject, and it really does fit in well with the IB as trying to accomplish. . . helping students to understand how we think.” English A and economics also seemed fun, though she ‘might have a bit of trouble with the higher levels!’ in economics.

She said that she’s noticed the acknowledgement and recognition that the IB has received since she started almost 13 years ago. “There’s a much bigger demand for IB then there was when I first started, even Akershus I think has started to become more enthusiastic about what IB has to offer. . . I think that as time has gone on, they [Akershus fylkeskommune] do recognise the value of such a programme.” She summed it up perfectly by saying “I always want us to be more visible and I don’t want to be content with what we have, I always want us to be looking towards the future and adding more students, and adding more subjects and show that even though we’re quite different we’re still an important part of this community.”

Being the amazing teacher and IB coordinator that she is, I had to ask if she had a specific teaching philosophy? “I think there’s the standard ‘don’t kill anyone’” she smiled. “I think it’s ‘high expectations yield high results’ and that’s something I’ve always felt as a teacher, always expect more.”

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