Influential Teachers

A Chat with Some of Scottsdale’s Teachers

What makes a teacher great? Typically, the answer is rarely one that is easy to summarize in a word or two. With summer winding to a close and students across the Valley dusting off their backpack and prepare to head back to school, we asked four of the teachers at Notre Dame Preparatory High School to see what makes them tick.

George Prelock, English, Head Varsity Football Coach

North Scottsdale Lifestyle (NSL): Will you tell a little about your background and how you got into teaching?

GP: I majored in English at the University of Vermont, graduating in 2002. I moved to the Valley that summer, and two years later, I was hired at NDP.

NSL: What makes you so passionate about teaching?

GP: Any time you can help students achieve their goals, it is extremely rewarding. I love watching students discover the amount of potential that they have as the year moves forward. It is truly a rewarding feeling to see them progress in their educational journey.

NSL: Will you speak to what it’s like working at Notre Dame Prep and your favorite part about it?

GP: My favorite aspect is the community atmosphere. I love that fact that we can incorporate our Catholic faith into our curriculum on a daily basis. NDP teaches more than just subject matter. We are trying to build students who are willing to serve and give back to the community.

NSL: You teach English and are the head of The Gonzaga Program. Will you tell a little about that?

GP: English was a subject that I always enjoyed and had a great amount of success in. Regarding the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Program, it provides academic support for incoming students who display academic promise but demonstrate deficiencies in basic skills. The program offers a yearlong modified curriculum that meets graduation requirements but requires additional English and math support.

NSL: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to students?

GP: My favorite piece of advice to give to students is to believe in yourself and work hard. If you are able to put forth your best effort and have a positive attitude, everything else will fall into place.

David Lamb, Social Studies

NSL: Will you tell a little about your background and how you got into teaching?

DL: Born and educated in Canada, I qualified as a high school English and social studies teacher and went into teaching immediately after university in 1987 at the Universal American School of Kuwait. In addition to Kuwait, I taught in both Turkey and Venezuela before coming to Notre Dame Prep in 2004.

NSL: Will you speak to what it’s like working at Notre Dame Prep and your favorite part about it?

DL: I have enjoyed working here because of the people I work with. There are also some amazing students and families associated with the school. The spirit of the school has a very strong sense of community and the notion that everyone here is of value. Not to mention, it is also just a beautiful campus.

NSL: What is the most important thing you have learned from being a teacher?

DL: Responsibility. Because of my time in the Middle East, and because of current issues regarding that part of the world today and followers of the Islamic faith, it is more important than ever that students be presented with as much information as possible. To let students rely on certain news outlets and social media to obtain their understanding of these issues would be highly irresponsible.

NSL: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to students?

DL: That learning can always be fun. That it’s okay to be smart. That they are all capable of doing these things.

Juby Luensmann, Mathematics

NSL: Will you tell a little about your background and how you got into teaching?

JL: I have been teaching now for 19 years and (at) Notre Dame for the last 11. The first three years were at a Catholic school in Chicago. When I moved to Arizona, I taught at a public school for one year but realized that I missed the Catholic school community.

NSL: Where do you find inspiration as a teacher?

JL: I am inspired by the accomplishments of the students that I have had in the past. I love hearing about what they are doing and how they are making a difference in the world. Some of my past students are now doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers. It is wonderful to hear about how the teenagers that I had in class are now adults contributing to society.

NSL: What is the most important thing you have learned from being a teacher?

JL: I have learned to be open to students’ suggestions in solving a problem. I have learned a lot of cool math tricks from the students that I have taught over the years. I am now able to pass those tricks to the next generation of students that come my way.

NSL: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to students?

JL: Keep learning and always persevere. I like to remind my students to always engage the mind and that not everything comes easy in life. They should never stop learning, and they need to work hard to see results. The satisfaction of seeing those results after all their hard work is priceless.

Mary Lou Lachvayder, Theology

NSL: Will you tell a little about your background and how you came to be a teacher?

MLL: Both my parents were educators, so it’s kind of the family business. After graduating from NAU, I taught for four years before I went to work for our parish until my youngest went to high school. I then went back to teaching and will be starting my 12th year at Notre Dame Prep this year.

NSL: What makes you so passionate about teaching?

MLL: There is tremendous potential in being able to be a part of helping kids realize that they are lovable and capable and able to do things they didn’t think they could do. Watching them begin to believe in or improve their beliefs in themselves, I know gives them wings and is something that’s going to serve them for the rest of their lives. So being a part of their life for a little while, and knowing that if we do right, it can have a lasting impact, that’s really powerful and its important work.

NSL: What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned from being a teacher?

MLL: That it’s the little things that sometimes make a big difference. Something you said 10 years ago that you don’t even remember is something a student might tell you made a profound difference and you didn’t even realize it at the time.

NSL: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to students?

MLL: Always make good choices. It is important to me because life happens, but we are always making choices. You know, being proactive and making choices and not letting life happen without your permission.