Backus, Leslie

April 30, 2003, midnight | 18 years ago

By Rachel Cooper

Name: Mrs. Leslie Backus
Subject: Horticulture
Education (Chronological Order): Woodland Elementary School, Montgomery Hills Junior High, Montgomery Blair High School, Douglass College, College of Agriculture; BS in environmental science
Previous Jobs: Waterfront director at a summer camp, "Kelley girl" at a temp agency, doctoral typist, teacher at Montgomery Hills Junior High
Came to Blair in 1983.
Hobbies: Gardening, motorcycling, science fiction reading, piano, cooking
Extracurricular Activities: Dungeons and Dragons Club, piano for theater productions, Film Club

Leslie Backus deals with plants every day as the horticulture teacher at Montgomery Blair High School. Her leisure pursuits include gardening, motorcycling and devouring books. "I read a lot of science fiction and mysteries," Backus explained. She also enjoys whipping up her own concoctions in the kitchen. "I'm an improvisational cook," Backus joked. She loves flexible recipes she can tweak to her liking. Backus is also a music lover. She sings in a church choir, and she has been playing piano since she was seven years old. In the past, Backus has sponsored a Dungeons and Dragons club at Blair, but no longer has the schedule to participate in clubs due to the time she now spends with her two children.

Backus is inspired by her students and finds them to be the perks of her job. "The best thing about being a teacher is the kids," she said. "I want to teach them about the world." She felt there was never a dull moment preparing for class, and preparing to make it happen. Backus believes that the most challenging aspect of teaching is trying to get through the teenagers that did not put forth any effort. She feels that the hardest thing is "trying to get kids to learn that an education can make a difference in their life." Backus described a situation where students did not have the eagerness to learn about horticulture. "I collected a homework assignment in class today and got two papers," she said sadly.

Backus has unique hobby that is not shared by many teachers at Blair. She has been motorcycling since she was a young adult, and still owns her 1975 yellow Yamaha motorcycle that she acquired that year. "I was a hippie chick," she said. In fact, Backus met her current husband through a set up with a former roommate's friend at a motorcycling rally. She is bashful and embarrassed about her past image. "I was into the Grateful Dead, what can I say," Backus said, smiling.

Backus had several embarrassing moments in her past, but the most embarrassing was when she had a class where literally every single demonstration she tried to do would go wrong. Once, she forgot to go to one of her classes because she was swept away in grading some papers in the science office, unaware that it was seventh period. When she was eleven, Backus lost her bikini top when she dove into a pool.

Backus was not hesitant when it came to selecting the most influential individual in her life. "The single person was my ninth grade science teacher," she said. He had an "incredibly challenging class" and had talent in the subject. This professor gave a lecture about DNA in 1963 that Backus still can clearly remember. "I had an epiphany," she explained. She could see him talking about a new scientific innovation, and "it was like a religious experience." After hearing the speech, Backus knew she wanted to be in a science field and followed her dreams, only to discover her present subject: horticulture. "We work with plants and cells and trees-not little microscopes!" Backus cried out happily.

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