This is…Lucy Capt (Part I)
NHS sponsor, AP teacher, and former coach reflects on her journey before, during, and after her time at SV
June 3, 2020
Before Smithson Valley: The College Years
Texas A&M freshman Lucy Capt wrestles with her mind. Business…or history? History…or business? Since graduating as her class’s salutatorian from Uvalde High School, Capt sights were set on majoring in business—just like her father. But an overall discontentment in her major prompted her to rethink.
She ponders and ponders and ponders before deciding on the inevitable: she will change her major to history.
She will become a teacher.
“From a really young age I had always been comfortable being in front of the class and teaching my classmates or tutoring people or being a mentor to people…I knew that I wanted to work with kids and I knew I was a teacher. It wasn’t something I was doing, it was part of who I am. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a mistake, and I knew it was a really really good fit for me.”
The choice presents her with one final obstacle, though. How will I convince my dad this is what I want to do? With her thinking cap on, she plans out her rationale; reassuring him that her decision wouldn’t point her to a dead end career-wise was key to ensuring that she would begin her sophomore year at Texas A&M a history major.
And that she did.
Relieved, her worry transitioned to eagerness come her sophomore year—when she finally put her change into motion. It was then that she dived into her new environment by meeting and forming relationships with fellow history enthusiasts not only in the classroom, but across the Atlantic, where she studied in Poland following her sophomore year. One of those people—who taught her American and German history in the classroom on top of guiding her through Poland—ended up being the one who’s teaching style she most wanted to emulate as a teacher herself: the late Dr. Arnold Paul Krammer, the most “influential professor” she ever came across.
“Krammer was one of those professors that everybody wanted to take even if you weren’t a history person,” Capt said. “His classes were always full (sometimes, they were standing room only because people would just sit in and audit his class; it was just that good). He had a major influence on me realizing that history doesn’t have to be boring, and I don’t have to be embarrassed or hide the fact that I love history.”
“I fell in love with it: the idea of being able to share my passion of learning about culture and learning about why things have happened the way they’ve happened, and why things are the way that they are now because of things that have happened in the past.”
Those times at A&M reaffirmed to her that her change of majors wouldn’t be for naught, and that she would be equipped with the tools needed to be a successful teacher once she obtained her hard-earned degree.
Before SV: The Tot Year
In grad school, Capt’s classes were all virtual, which afforded her (and her peers) time to gain outside experience in the academic world by either subbing or interning. She frequently resorted to the former in College Station until, out of the blue, her mother, a teacher, called with the news that one of her colleagues had to deal with an urgent family matter; the principal was on the lookout for a temporary replacement.
Thus, the first teaching opportunity tossed her way involved a roomful full of students, but one Capt wants to be clear she never intended to pursue: a kindergarten class.
“My mom thought there was no possible way that [I would] say yes, and at this point, both of my roommates had moved out, I was halfway through the semester, I was not going to be able to get other roommates (most of my friends graduated and had moved out of College Station,” Capt said. “So I was like ‘Yeah. Sure. Why not?’ It was teaching experience, and even though [I wasn’t] planning on teaching elementary, you still get classroom management training, and you still get training in talking to parents. So I agreed to do it, and moved back home, and did a permanent sub position for about a month.”
When the original teacher returned, Capt stayed within the school posing as an aide for any class or grade that necessitated her assistance. However, primary education and the curriculum associated with it just didn’t do the job of satisfying her hunger for something complex.
“I loved working with the kids, but teaching kids how to read and teaching the basics of arithmetic and things like that is just too basic,” Capt said. “I wanted to be able to have the in-depth conversations and teach kids that they’re going to have their own opinions and I was going to be able to challenge those opinions and get them to think deeper and for themselves.”
Fortunately for Capt, the trip back to Uvalde was a pit stop on her quest for something more.
During SV: The Semester of Student Teaching
Capt, anxious to jump into student-teaching mode, drives past the entrance to SV the first week of January 2012, winding through the parking lot. She settles in a spot, tugs her keys out of the ignition, steps out, and beholds her surroundings.
Holy cow, this place is massive! she thinks as she paces around campus, noting the stark contrast between her small-town high school to the one in front of her. It’s like…a college! This is insane.
“That semester, Comal ISD had a contract with A&M for student teachers, so I got pulled back to this area. My choice wasn’t SV (that’s where they assigned me). I grew up with some friends from camp that attended SV, so I knew about the school. A lot of my really good friends at school were baseball players, and SV was a rival school (at least when we got into the playoffs). I got really lucky.”
She composes herself enough to enter the school that impressed her from the start, requesting to speak with Comal ISD’s now executive director of secondary education, Corbee Wunderlich, the one who acted as the bridge connecting her to her position at Smithson Valley up to that point.
With nothing but her blunt emailing style (and his assumption that she was affiliated with the military because of “Capt”) known to him, he appraised her in surprise. “Wait…you’re Lucy Capt?”
“Sometimes I can come across as very aggressive [in my emails]…I’ve been working on that!”
So began her time (and impression) at SV. That day, she climbed up the steps to upper B-wing, ready to kickstart her semester student teaching an on-level U.S. History class, which was a change of pace for a former AP student and college graduate used to six years of rigorous syllabi.
“It was a really big adjustment for me to dial back how I was challenging kids, and really recognizing that not everybody is as an academically driven student as I was, and trying to figure out how to still motivate kids, and get them to complete work because not turning in work was never an option for me,” Capt said. “Battling that with some kids (which was only a handful of them) was kinda the biggest shock for me walking into the classroom.
“I had to readjust my expectations and, by the end of it, I had kind of moved my expectations back up to where [I wanted] them to be originally, but it just took some time for the kids to get used to me as opposed to the other teacher; we were just different.”
During SV: Coaching 101
The bell rings. Lucy Capt stands guard outside of the classroom she student-teaches in as a flood of students rush past in every direction. From across the hallway, Coach Craig Werstefer approaches her. With only six minutes left of the passing period to spare, he then asks a simple question:
“Did you play sports in high school?”
With those seven words, a door opens to a world that dominated her high school years six years prior: the hours of practice, the sprinting, the squeaks of the courts, the buzzers, the starting pistol, the nets, the batons, the lanes, the victories, the cheers, the defeats, and the tears involved with two in particular. “Yeah. I played volleyball and ran track,” she replies, remarking on the love she has for the latter.
“Have you ever thought about being a coach?”
A coach. “Not that it’s not an option; it’s just not something that I was really looking to do.”
“Why don’t you volunteer with the track team?” Werstefer offers. “Just try it for a couple of days and see if you like it. If you want to stay on, stay on, and hopefully you can.”
Lucy Capt gave it a shot, and it was worth it: one practice led to another, and, as a student teacher, she permanently joined in as the only female coach of the track team at the time. After school, she would re-enter the athletic arena again and again, but with a new, growing perspective.
“I would get really nervous as an athlete myself. [However], I was never more nervous as when I was a coach because you’ve trained the kid as much as you can, then once they’re competing, there’s nothing that you can do; your job’s over,” Capt said. “Within track, we had a lot of kids that qualified for state, and we knew that they were gonna qualify (they were among the best in the state), so watching them compete…is like knowing if everything goes right, then they’ll qualify, but if they trip or they drop a baton or they clip a hurdle, it could ruin their entire season in a split second, so it [was] so nerve-wracking.”
As an official track staff member four years later, Capt experienced something unforgettable—one that doesn’t cease to excite her.
“In 2016, in track, we took ten kids—ten—to the state track meet. That was important for me because that senior class was the first class that I had seen all the way through high school; I had worked with them as freshmen through seniors. I wanted the success for them so much more than I ever wanted for myself. When they finally [did] achieve that, and being able to share their joy and to see that [they’ve] reached the top of the mountain…it [was] just awesome.”
Coach Capt continued coaching into the fall semester of the 2012-2013 school year while simultaneously teaching AP U.S. History in her own classroom. Juggling school with volleyball, track, and eventually cross country, though, was rocky terrain for her.
“At the end of volleyball season, I was taken out of volleyball, moved into cross country, and so I was in cross country and track…It meant that I never had an off season,” Capt said. “Practice started at six o’clock, and practice ended at six [p.m.], so I was at the school for 12 hours a day on top of teaching an AP class.”
Come spring semester of the 2017-2018 school year, the chapter of her coaching career ended.
“It just got too grueling…and to the point that all I was doing was my job. I was exhausted…burnt out…I tried to get my coaching assignments adjusted to alleviate some of the time commitments, but with the staffing, it wasn’t an option…So with personal reasons, I just had to stop. I miss it, I miss the competitions.”
During SV: Teaching 101
She stands at the front of the classroom behind her lectern, grading or jotting down notes and debate observations with a colorful marker. She raises her hands to her temples, squeezing her eyes shut, focusedly searching for precise information (especially numbers) needed for class discussions. She spews out historical facts and consequences and importances at the top of her head for her students to absorb just like she did as Dr. Krammer’s pupil.
This is what she envisioned as a young girl. This is what she saw through her mom, her grandparents, her great grandparents, and so on and so forth. The teaching legacy of her family lives on.
She’s also in Krammer’s shoes now; and instead of praising a teacher who mattered to her, though, Capt is at the receiving end of that praise and gratitude from the students she cares about.
“Junior year is notorious for being stressful, and while I would be lying if I said that wasn’t true, I felt supported through it all by my APUSH teacher, Coach Capt,” junior Caitlyn Hermesch. “I would often spend the mornings in her classroom talking about anything; sometimes it was U.S. history and sometimes it was the Oscars.
“She was there for me whether I needed to discuss challenges outside of her class. Even if she may not have been able to help me, she always gave me her time and attention, offering up whatever advice or help she could muster.”
A door a two away, other teachers with whom Capt has formed deep professional relationships and friendships express their admiration for her.
“There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family. Lucy is that person to me,” U.S government teacher Christina Post, who’s room is directly across from Capt’s, said. “I met Lucy her first year of teaching. We were room neighbors, and there was something pretty amazing about her attitude and drive.
“We became friends pretty quickly. We have a lot in common, specifically our love of travel, our country, and most importantly our families, and over our eight years together, we’ve spent countless hours discussing those topics and more. In this time where people are so quick to dismiss another’s perspective, we discuss all sides of an issue, and even if we don’t agree, we still respect one another’s opinion.”
“Coach Capt was one of the first people I bonded with when I arrived at SVHS,” fellow U.S history teacher Dena Saunders said. “It was refreshing having someone I could talk to or ‘vent’ to and not feel like I was being judged. And the laughs! Lots and lots of hysterics. Great memories. I also got to witness her passion…
“…Her passion for teaching, her passion for history, her passion for her country, for her God, and most importantly, for her students. Coach Capt has a big heart and wants the world to be a better place. She works tirelessly to ensure that our future leaders will be ready and will make us all proud. For that, we are proud of her!”
In terms of classroom content, her 100+ students over the years weren’t the only ones learning new things. Capt herself discovered new insights related to the teaching world.
“School’s not really about academics…it’s not about ‘Can you remember these dates and these people…It’s about learning how to learn; it’s about being appreciative of getting an education and giving you a skill set that’s going to prepare you for life after,” Capt said. “When you get to share in their greater story and not just about about academics and ‘I scored well on this essay in a class’; when a kid is able to see the bigger picture and they kind of allow you to be a bigger part of their life…Both you and the student realize that there’s more to each of you beyond being the teacher and the student, and things just click.”
During SV: NHS Sponsorship
Coach Capt and Principal Michael Wahl speak privately, wondering how to deal with a National Honor Society (NHS) sponsorship opening.
“What are we doing?” Capt inquires, who was the NHS treasurer her senior at Uvalde High School. “How will you fill the position?”
Wahl contemplates. “I need an interim. Are you interested?”
Paralleling the scene out in the hallway that set in motion her coaching tenure, Capt’s faced with an opportunity. Compared to that instance, though, she’s hesitant. It’s just another time commitment; it’s like going back to coaching…
After debating with it, turning to her mother for advice, and realizing that a non-sport extracurricular would be an enticing way to be “plugged into the school”, she agrees to take on his proposal, and, similar to coaching, that temporary position became permanent.
“I think anytime that you step out of the classroom, you don’t have the pressure of getting a grade on something…It allows you to have fun with the kids in a different way,” Capt said. “Having fun with the officers and working around with them in the officer meetings and things like that…it was just something different.”
A team around her helped conduct meetings and projects the organization thrived on: Geometry teacher Emily Alexander and 12 senior officers (most of which were her students a year prior), who would congregate with her by taking advantage of the extra time granted by FIT sessions.
Senior Jacqueline Lafond, the president of NHS, is one of those students.
“A woman like Coach Capt leaves an incredibly large and permanent mark on every life she touches,” Lafond said. “Not only is she one of the most rigorous, dedicated, gifted teachers I have ever met, she is a role model. The amount of effort and care she put into making NHS the best it could be blew me away. I was so blessed to serve as the NHS president under the direction of [her].”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Coach Capt, it’s that learning history from 200 years ago can be interesting and fresh as if it were yesterday. The way she always encouraged us to be hardworking, honest people is something I will take far beyond.”
To the students gathered around her as she unabashedly stands up on top of her vehicle on a Saturday NHS highway cleanup and yells out instructions, or as she smiles politely and proudly—with her hands folded primly in her lap—listens to her officers initiate the 2019-2020 NHS induction ceremony, she seems fine.
She’s just a busy person. What could be wrong?
That wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface.