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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

the Epic

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New literature teacher Vanessa Otto encourages student participation

Photo by Olivia Yuan.
Prior to Vanessa Otto’s Lynbrook debut, she spent 16 years teaching at Monta Vista High School and one year teaching at Cupertino High School.

Literature and writing and American literature teacher Vanessa Otto may be a new face at Lynbrook this year, but she has nearly two decades of experience teaching in FUHSD. Prior to her Lynbrook debut, she spent 16 years teaching at Monta Vista High School and one year teaching at Cupertino High School. 

Otto settled on the career path of an English teacher in high school, but she had felt connections to education and literature since childhood. She looked up to teachers who encouraged participation from shyer students like herself through the passion and joy in their teaching.

“I always felt the most at home in a classroom, particularly in an English classroom,” Otto said. “A lot of my favorite characters from books were teachers, and I was also strongly influenced by a lot of female protagonists.” 

She admired Laura from “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jo March from “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. However, it was Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery who made the greatest impact on her. As a child, Otto saw herself in the imaginative, lively, and determined Anne, who, despite all odds, managed to connect with the most unlikely of people. 

“‘Anne of Green Gables’ is a book that pretty much inspired my life philosophy and my love for teaching in general,” Otto said. “The book taught me that you can form a connection with anyone if you take the time to get to know them.”

Like Anne, Otto aims to form personal connections with her students by highlighting the value of community and communication. She plans on building a classroom environment with a strong foundation of trust and respect. Eventually, she hopes to see students’ passion shine through their writing, performances and presentations. Her main goal is for students to both welcome the unique perspectives of their peers and embrace their own individuality. 

“I want my students to remember me as someone who cares and takes the time to see them for who they are,” Otto said.

A Bay Area native, Otto was born in Redwood City and grew up in Newark, California. She graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in English and theater arts. Her passion for performance is reflected in her interdisciplinary approach to teaching. Socratic seminars, performances and oral presentations have all been typical of her past courses. At Lynbrook, students can expect her love of theater to show through the addition of new acting activities, as well as the enhancement of preexisting ones. For example, literature and writing students may find the “Romeo and Juliet” skits, put on in past years, more engaging with Otto’s expert guidance. 

Outside of teaching, Otto is an avid fan of movies, plays, musical theater and seasonal fairs and festivals. She also enjoys arts and crafts, antiquing, baking and reading.

“I think it’s really important to find your voice and to feel comfortable with who you are,” Otto said. “I hope my students learn to get validation from characters and people in the classroom that have had similar experiences and value the unique perspective that others bring to the classroom.”

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(she/her) Ashley is a junior and this year's sports editor. Outside of journalism, she loves playing the violin, dancing, and playing with her cat.
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