‘Apple’ for teacher at West Middle

       For 18 years, Lesa Finger worked in horticulture, studying the best ways to help plants thrive.

Lesa Finger in her classroom.
Westside Pioneer photo

       For the past four years, as a social studies teacher at West Middle School, she's been giving the same kind of attention to students.
       The result this year was her selection as a Crystal Apple award winner.
       The award goes to teachers who are valued highly enough to inspire a book of letters from colleagues, parents, students and former students, then are judged by individuals selected by the PTA (the Crystal Apple sponsor), based on several measures of excellence.
       The selectees each receive $500 cash awards to use in their classrooms.
       “I was surprised to get it,” Finger said. She credited the support of fellow staffers in her efforts to improve as a teacher. Nor is she shy about seeking help. “I'm willing to ask for help from other teachers because what we do in this building is important… Kids can make the right choices because of things you taught them to do.”
       As part of that belief, she works at getting to know her students, including their extracurricular activities. Throughout the school year, hardly a night goes by that Finger is not attending some performance or game or activity in which one or more of her students is involved. “It's well worth it, to have those relationships,” she said. “They can see that I'm human and truly care about them.”
       Another area where Finger thinks she is able to connect with kids is in terms of real-world economics. She has personal experience in that. If it weren't for some bad luck, she might still be running her own nursery in Penrose rather than teaching at West. But the town's increased water restrictions forced her out of business. “I spent 18 years learning to grow plants well, and then I had to give it up,” she said.
       It was at that point that she recalled her original aspirations to be a teacher when she'd graduated from high school in 1981. Returning to college, she obtained not only a teaching certificate but a Masters in curriculum instruction and has been at West all four of her teaching years.
       She misses her nursery, but not too much. “When I had a business, I felt that if was very worthwhile, because I was contributing to society by paying wages and producing a product,” Finger reflected. “But in the classroom, if you reach kids, they might see a potential they were never going to realize.”

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Editor’s note: Lesa Finger is one of three Westside teachers in District 11 to be selected for a Crystal Apple Award this year. The other two (Kimberly Watts, a fourth-grade teacher at Midland International Elementary; and Brent Urban, Spanish teacher at Coronado High), will be featured in a future issue of the Westside Pioneer