This is…Lucy Capt (Part II)
NHS sponsor, AP teacher, and former coach reflects on her journey before, during, and after her time at SV
June 3, 2020
During SV: Struggles and Revelations
Tap. Tap tap tap tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap.
It’s early November. Night falls. Capt’s at home, at her desk, typing up the program for the previously mentioned induction ceremony.
What am I doing? What am I going to do?
Up to that point, she planned to take the LSAT in pursuit of potentially enrolling in law school, which steadily grew to be an aspiration for her. The odds of that happening didn’t appear favorable for her.
The test is coming up quickly, but…there’s just no way it’ll happen.
She’s also swamped with classroom obligations—once more juggling school with an extracurricular.
It’s too much.
Suddenly, a voice whispers in her ear. I’m going to walk the Camino.
She stops what she’s doing.
She lets that sink in.
Huh…I can’t leave teaching and go right to law school; I’m going to be way too overwhelmed with that, she thinks. That change is not going to serve its purpose. I’ll end up not meeting my standards in law school, and so that’s not what I should do in the moment. I should take a year off…Or some time off. You’re out walking fourteen, fifteen miles a day. What else do you do other than think or clear your head and gain some perspective on life?
Gone is her stress. Gone is her dejectedness—her hopelessness.
A wave of peace washes over her instead.
Snatching her phone, she calls her mother. One ring…two rings…
“I’m going to walk the Camino.”
A pause. “When did you make that decision?”
“Five minutes ago.”
That call cemented her confidence that she would embark on a walk hundreds of miles long that starts in Southern France and concludes in Northwestern Spain, the journey of which would be detailed in a blog made for herself and for her friends, family, students, and colleagues.
“Granted, when I first learned about the Camino, it was in 2009; it had been 10 years,” Capt said. “I looked into it, there had been movies, documentaries about it. My mom wanted to go as well. I had talked to other people that had been on it; some of my former students had gone on it. It wasn’t like it was some random thing I had found and decided I wanted to do it; for years, I had planned [to walk it] some time in my life.”
(Fast Forward) After SV: More Travels
Determining she wanted to walk the Camino unlocked the gates to other travel ideas Capt had, all of which would follow the completion of her expedition.
“I love seeing how other people live (not just seeing, but experiencing it), so most of the stuff that I like to do (at least now that I’m older) is immersive kind of stuff—not doing the typical touristy stuff (I might to some tourist stuff), but the behind the scenes, off the beaten path kind of stuff as well. I’ve been to 21 countries at this point. Every summer, I try to do something new that I’ve never done before. I try to go to a new country, or some other new place that I’ve never seen [in a state or country I’ve already been in]. New experiences, and spend[ing] my time investing in myself and invest in something that’s going to enrich me. That’s kind of what this whole year is supposed to be about.”
“I found a trip to Africa that’s for all women all around the world. That’s on hold (it hasn’t been canceled). As long as the country’s opened up and letting us go, I’ll fly from Spain to Namibia, and go on the tour with those women and then spend a week in South Africa. [So] Spain, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa,” Capt said. “I’ll be home just before Thanksgiving, stay here through December and the New Year, make sure that law school applications and everything are take care of, and then I’ve looked through backpacking in South America. It all depends on what happens this fall with COVID-19 (if those countries even open up to allow international travel), so we’ll see. If I don’t go to South America…I’ve contemplated getting those vans, driving around the United States and going to all of the national parks.”
(Backtracking) During SV: Breaking the News
Coach Capt and Principal Wahl are seated together by themselves, just like how it was when she resigned from coaching and when she took on NHS.
She releases what’s on her chest:
“It’s been a decision…something that had been weighing pretty heavily on me for a while,” Capt says. “I’ve considered all parts for it. I need to step away for myself. What is the timeline that you need for me? If you want my letter now, I can give it to you. If you want me to wait until later…Whatever’s best for you works for me.”
(Concerning though it was in the moment, that conversation never fails to amuse her in retrospect.
“I’d already had that conversation with Mr. Wahl.” Capt can’t stop laughing. “It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, I’ve had this conversation with someone else,’ but ‘I’ve had this conversation with the same person twice!’”)
Capt checked off the first step, but when and how she would disclose the news to her students was another dilemma.
“I knew that as soon as I turned in my letter, though, that’s when I needed to tell my students because once my letter had been processed, then my job would be posted, and the news would start to spread, and I didn’t want my students to find out from anybody other than me,” Capt said. “The timing was difficult because I turned in my letter [at] the beginning of March, and then I had the NHS meetings the next day, and I couldn’t wait an entire month to announce that at the end of the NHS meetings in April.
“My family had been helping me make the decision, and a couple of my colleagues at Smithson Valley knew; they also kind of helped me talk through the decision and affirm that it was the right one for me to make at the time.”
“[The meetings] were pretty rough. It’s just hard to say goodbye, and now the thing that sucks about all of this is I had the meeting Tuesday, then was gone all day because I had a meeting in Central Office, then on Wednesday we had the SAT, and then Thursday my kids tested again, so there was no time to really talk to my students about it until Friday, but it was a Friday before Spring Break, so a lot of my students weren’t there, and there were some classes at that point that had heard about it, and brought it up, and I didn’t make an announcement in each one of my classes (I didn’t want to spend my day crying), so I didn’t say anything…Maybe that was selfish of me.
“But when kids asked about it, I went ahead and talked about it. There were somes kids that came in and said, ‘I’m mad at you. I’m not talking to you. So don’t call on me in class’ (cause I do that anyway). I was also planning on talking about it more whenever we came back from Spring Break, and that obviously [wasn’t] a possibility…I think that it’s unfortunate that most of them have had to find out in the grapevine.”
During SV: The Reactions
Positivity and support: the two things that comforted Capt after she made her announcement.
The Junior Perspective:
“I am deeply grateful for the past year I was able to spend with her as my teacher,” Hermesch
said. “I am glad she is moving on to better things, even if that means leaving Smithson Valley High School.”
The Senior Perspective:
“She inspires me to follow my passions, and my heart bursts to see her follow hers. I will miss hearing her infectious laugh, seeing her fun, fashionable outfits, and learning her exciting stories,” Lafond said. “But I am excited for her to go make more memories and go on more adventures that someday I hope to hear about. Coach Cap: on behalf of every student you’ve ever taught, thank you for touching our lives. You hold a permanent place in our hearts, and you will be missed!”
The Teacher Perspective:
“Lucy has given so much of herself to SVHS and it’s students, but now it’s time for her to move on. This was not the way we thought her time here would end, but we don’t always get what we want,” Post said. “She has wonderful plans for herself and I know she will be successful in this next chapter of her life! As for me, Lucy Capt will forever be my family. I will always look forward to our next conversation, as well as future opportunities to travel together. This is not goodbye, it’s see you later!”
“I will forever be grateful for the friendship that was formed. I know that it will continue beyond both our times at SVHS,” Saunders said. “It was clear from the beginning that Coach Capt has a wondering spirit and loves adventure and travel. Hearing her tell stories about places she has been and things she has seen and done was inspiring. I was able to use some of that knowledge in my teaching (especially about Vietnam) and for this I am grateful.”
During SV: The Family
An email shows up in Capt’s inbox. Curiously, she guides her cursor to the message, and clicks.
It’s from one of her former students, now a college freshman.
She prints out the page and a half letter—no spaces. She reads.
In short, he thanks her for the academics, the suicide prevention program she brought into her classroom, and her NHS efforts.
At a family gathering, Capt passes it over to her mother. After finishing, she looks Capt in the eyes. “And you want to quit teaching?”
“I know! This is really making me rethink it…,” Capt exasperatingly says.
Capt’s grandfather scours through it after. His reaction is the same.
Her uncle, a lawyer, reads it as well. “Lucy, I don’t want to influence you or tell you what you should be doing, but based off of what I read here, you’re the kind of teacher kids need. You have no idea how many kids you’re impacting (and it’s obvious that you are because this kid has articulated that to you, and there are so many others out there who feel the same way, they just don’t recognize it.”
But with conviction, she’s soon definite in her decision once again.
“I know I love teaching, and I know I’m right for it, but do I need to make a change with me right now? At the beginning of the school year, the answer was yes…It’s not a no forever, it’s not a ‘I’m walking away for good’, it’s just I’ve got to take some time for me to have some breathing room.”
Either way, that letter reflected something that Capt doesn’t take for granted and that she views as important for any teacher.
“There’s been a handful of letters that former students have written (within one or two [years]). There are still some kids that have graduated from college that still call me, or want to take me to lunch,” Capt says emotionally. “Most of the times it’s within or after their freshman year (some of them, it’s before that in their senior letters); again, it’s not necessarily about history, it’s not necessarily about the content of the class; it’s beyond that, when they express how appreciative they are of everything else that I’ve taught them beyond the subject of history…When you get validation that you’ve taught a kid beyond their subject…those are the moments that make it most worth it and the most memorable.”
Even if it’s related to politics, Capt still enjoys hearing back from them.
“I can’t tell you how many kids have asked me, ‘Hey coach, I’m voting, I don’t know what this means, can you explain it to me?’ or ‘Can you tell me about this person’s policy? Can you tell me why everybody wants me to vote no on this? But why is it on the ballot instead?’” Capt said. “So kids…coming back to me after the fact and seeing them actively participate in life, that just shows me that I’ve done my job because again it’s not about how many dead presidents can you name, it’s ‘why is all of this important, and how does it incorporate into my life beyond high school. Those bigger picture ‘ahas’, lightbulbs: that’s what makes it worth it to me.”
After SV: The “Bigger Picture”
Candidly, Coach Capt reveals what the impact SV had on her, and will continue to have on her as she travels.
“…I don’t want to sound high and mighty here,” Capt said. “I was supported and reassured in what I was doing, by both administration and students; that just helps me, moving forward from here, knowing that I have something to offer.
“Being able to stay in the position that I’ve been in and continuing to teach an AP program…that’s just another form of validation that I’m doing something right, which is of course going to instill some confidence in my abilities and the job that I’m doing.”
“I feel very very fortunate to have been able to start my career there, and to have an administration that had enough confidence in me to let me be me…[to let] me teach how I want to teach; what works for me. That’s how it is for most teachers at SV; when they give you the room to be able to be your own teacher, to be creative, and to not be a cookie-cutter teacher, which is what is best for the teachers and the students…So I’m very appreciative of that.”
After SV: The Legacy
“I don’t like talking about myself,” Capt says with a grin.
It’s quiet. Birds chirp on Coach Capt’s side of the screen. Sunlight beats down around her as she thinks.
She inhales once before breaking the thoughtful silence with a soft intensity.
“I want to be remembered as a teacher who cared about her students beyond their academic potential…As someone who taught about the importance of respect and integrity, and the value of hard work,” Capt says methodically, “and honest work…To be brave in forming your own opinions, and also being vulnerable enough to have those opinions challenged…And recognizing that (I guess what I mean by “vulnerable” is recognizing that you won’t have all the answers) just because you disagree with someone, doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them.”
And she reminds herself of how she will forge through the next phases of her life, even if they’re not in B217.
“My dad always said to me, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s all small stuff…You’ve got to be able to remove yourself from the situation’ and say ‘Okay, tomorrow, in a week, is this really gonna matter? Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? If the answer’s yes, figure out a way to see it for what it actually is; stop worrying about it, stop fretting about it. No, you’re not going to have enough time in the day to get everything done, so, do what you can. You’re human, and tomorrow will take care of itself.’”