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June 17, 2013

Katie Lazo

by Sarah Trunk, Staff Writer
Name: Katie Lazo
Department: ESOL
Came to Blair: 2001
Classes Taught: ESOL Level 2b, ESOL Level 1/2 2b, Academic Reading ESOL
Education: Degree in History and Political Science from Providence College, Graduate Degree in History and ESOL from American University
Previous Jobs: Insurance undersecretary, Student Teacher, Member of Improv theatre
Hobbies:Running, Improv at the DC Improv Theater

It is after ninth period and the school is mostly deserted. Lone students smatter the halls, walking purposefully to talk to their teachers or lounging in remote corners, chatting with their friends. On the second floor, in out-of-the-way classroom 260, Ms. Katie Lazo is busy bustling about, writing tomorrow’s schedule on the board and planning out tomorrow’s lesson. Lazo teaches English as a Second Language (ESOL), and there is nothing she cares about more than her students. She loves talking with them, helping them, and really getting to know them.

"What I love most is interaction with students and the relationships you build in the classroom. It’s the best payoff when students come up to you to say thank you," says Lazo sincerely, grinning fondly in memory of some such students. Lazo is short, blonde and very friendly-looking, usually with a smile on her face. Like a lot of teachers, Lazo enjoys teaching; however, unlike some teachers, she makes valuable connections with her students that they appreciate long after they leave.

Lazo tells the story of one student she had about ten years ago. "I’ll probably start to cry," she warns, already getting a little choked up. Just before she left on maternity leave last year, the student sent her a gift and a card, offering their congratulations. Lazo was astonished and very touched. "It just really meant a lot to me," Lazo says, just managing to hold back her tears.

Lazo grew up in New York, just outside of Long Island. She had a big family, with three brothers and two sisters, and heavily involved herself in her community. She was a part of the Christian Youth Organization in her community, which she calls "a way to play sports if you didn’t at school." Lazo played volleyball, basketball and softball, acted in a few plays, and participated in Girl Scouts.

She graduated from Providence College with a degree in History and Political Science. Lazo wanted to go into law or be a teacher, a job which she was initially scared of.

"I was afraid because people weren’t always nice to teachers," she admits. Lazo got a job in insurance, but then she realized that insurance wasn’t what she wanted to do. Instead, she decided to go to Japan to teach English, and thus a career was born.

"I wanted to travel the world. I’d never been outside of the United States, and I learned a whole heck of a lot about life," Lazo says. Lazo taught in Japan from 1996 to 1998, then traveled around for six additional months before returning home.

When she got back, Lazo knew that she wanted to teach, and thought that ESOL was a good fit. She went back to school, earning a graduate degree in ESOL and History from American University. Lazo then became a student teacher here at Montgomery Blair, and has been here since 2001.

Outside of school, Lazo has a myriad of hobbies. Or, at least, had, before her baby, Lucy, was born last year. She did a lot of running, even entering in the New York City Marathon one year. Lazo also was a part of an improv group called Aboulia, performing at the Washington DC Improv Theatre. She’s stopped doing these things since her baby was born in November 2012 because Lazo having a baby is a lot of work.

"Now it’s mostly just...babying," Lazo laughs. "I don’t really have a lot of free time." Still, Lazo manages to teach with dedication and love. Teachers who actually care about their students as individuals are unfortunately very few, so those teachers that truly enjoy what they do are a joy to have. Lazo is no exception.

As she finishes writing the multi-colored message on the whiteboard in the back of the room, she smiles to herself, no doubt thinking of her students and the days to come.





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