Philip Lala has always loved working with kids. His love for coaching baseball and science made teaching extremely appealing. He began his career by going to the University of Iowa where he met his wife, who also taught at City High.
“I started out as a sub for one day in the district here where I taught a day of kindergarten,” said Lala. “When that day was over, I got a call from the athletic director who used to be at my high school who is now a principal [in] Washington, Iowa, and he said, ‘Hey, we need a part-time science teacher for the rest of the year; can you do it?’ and I was like, ‘Sure.’
Lala also taught science at West High but coaching baseball at City High encouraged him to want to move to City High. He has been here ever since.
Having taught in multiple schools, when you walk in, there’s just this feeling of like ‘This is a nice place to be,” said Lala. “I don’t think that any of the other schools that I’ve ever taught at had the same feeling as that.”
Currently, Lala teaches ELL General Science. General Science is a class that helps English-learning students learn different science topics and get to understand the vocabulary that may also assist them in their other classes.
“A lot of the students who are in the class have experiences in their life that are radically different than mine and so that can sometimes be a challenge,” said Lala.
Communication with the ELL General Science students can be difficult but he finds it rewarding and interesting.
“I don’t speak Swahili or French or Spanish or any other languages,” Lala said. “It has to be more like pictures, or gestures, or me acting a certain way to try to get them to understand.”
He also teaches Chemistry Honors, which is a course for students who have a passion for science and wish to do something is science-related in college or as a career.
“[In my] regular ed class, I can generally just talk to them about a [topic] and that’s not always possible with ELL students,” said Philip Lala. “I think when you go into a regular ed class there’s this idea, ‘This is what I want to teach and this is how I’m going to do it.’ With an ELL class, you have to be very thoughtful about, ‘This is the idea I want to get across, but I can’t just use words, so what are the other things I have to do in order to get that thing across, and so I think that has been helpful in other courses too, in trying to explain topics that are difficult or trying to explain topics in a way that isn’t just words.”
Lala enjoys working with students from different background and building a strong relationship with them. Through his teachings he hopes to influence students after their high school careers.
“Knowing that wherever the kids are going to go, whether it’s that they are going to go to college or they’re going to start a family or whatever it may be, that maybe you’re helping them during a small portion of time to get them to where they want to be [is nice],” said Lala. “It’s been nice knowing that you’ve maybe made a small difference or gotten them to think about something in a different way and somehow impacted their life.”