Teachers Lives Before Niles West: Ms. Lichterman

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By Cameron Cassidy

Some people say that the English department is where you’ll find the most interesting people at Niles West. If you don’t believe that meeting Ms. Lichterman might change your mind. You can find her teaching college prep and American Lit at the honors levels, or in the class she started herself, Lit of Peace and Nonviolence. She is one of the most passionate teachers you’ll meet and sitting in her class you can tell that she is teaching for more than the reason of needing a job. Niles West News got a chance to hear her whole story, learn about her life before Niles West.

“I would say I have done everything I have wanted to do. For a while, after college, I worked at a group home for pregnant teens and other girls that were part of the foster system. But I also worked for Amnesty International, which is the largest human rights organization in the world, and I was their student coordinator for all of the Midwest. In college I was really active in Amnesty International and they allowed me to continue to work with them when I finished school. After working with Amnesty, I began working at Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault, which is a sexual assault agency.  I coordinated all of their educational programs so I went out to middle schools, high schools and colleges and worked with adults. I did rape education, education on sexual harassment and objectification of women in media. I loved what I did and that I got to work in a non profit organization,” Lichterman said.

Her work with sexual assault victims didn’t stop when she stopped her work at Amnesty,

“I also got to work on a hotline and I did emergency calls. We would be on call 24 hours a day. I could have responded at 3 and if someone were to be sexually assaulted we went out to the hospital [to talk],” Lichterman said.

She has been working with teens for most of her adult life so becoming a teacher and helping even more kids seemed like a logical step for Ms. Lichterman

“I’m really glad I had those experiences prior to teaching because I think doing those things made me a better teacher. Everything I have done has been something I was passionate about, whether it was human rights or women’s rights, I have no regrets, all of this led me on a path to becoming a teacher,” Licterman said.

Now, Litcherman applies her experiences to her classes on a daily basis.

“I feel like those experiences and being able to also go into classes filled with students I didn’t know and to talk about a sensitive topic prepared me very well for teaching because I learned how to talk in front of teenagers, discipline on the spot and talk about things that people don’t normally talk about and aren’t comfortable with. I’ve been able to do that in my classes and bring those ideas into my classroom. I always tell my students to follow their passion, and I think today’s culture tells students that they have to know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives at 17 or 18 because that’s what our parents and grandparents did. But if you get a job and you end up not liking it do something else, life’s too short to be doing something that you don’t enjoy. I am grateful for the experiences that I had because they have made me a better teacher and a better person, if someday I no longer have a passion for teaching I will go back and do something else that I have enjoyed,” Lichterman said.

Being able to do something that you enjoy every day may seem like a difficult task, but Ms. Lichterman has been doing it her whole life. Unhappiness is a foreign experience and it’s not something she wishes to see from and on, anyone else. She has devoted her life to making others’ lives better. Her life before Niles West is one that moves and  motivates many to do what they love.