“Lise Goddard’s Legacy”
On some spring day in my junior year, as I walked past Long House, Lise stuck her head out of her sunflower-yellow office, her wild mane of hair emerging from her magenta down jacket, and called out to me, asking me if I had a minute. Though I had been intending to use my free period to study, Lise’s smile looked so hopeful that I couldn’t refuse. I reluctantly followed her into her office.
About half an hour later, after a slight stress breakdown on my part and a torrent of encouragement on hers, she turned to her desk, searching for something among the files and folders she had strewn across it. Finally, she reached towards her computer screen, plucking from it a single pink sticky note.
“Someone gave this to me recently,” she said with a smile in my direction, “and I think you could find some truth in it.” She handed me the note and I read: done is better than perfect. Only recently did I fully comprehend all that Lise has done for this school since she arrived here with her husband, Jeff, and their twin boys, Ziggy and Will, seventeen years ago.
She entered the school as Director of Environmental Programs. Since her arrival, Midland has moved from zero to thirty-six percent solar energy. But Lise didn’t stop at solar installations; she made sure that every class she taught knew the intricate mechanisms of a solar panel, from the chemicals involved in constructing them to the path the ions travel through them to produce electricity. If Midland strives for place-based education, Lise Goddard strongly upholds that ideal. Her chemistry class, though unconventional, focused on educating students about the chemistry in their environment. My sophomore class travelled to Leo Cabrillo State Beach, where we tested the concentrations of various particles and chemical compounds in the water, then compared them to the levels of the same compounds in our Alamo Pintado Creek. She taught us how our data would be influenced by chemical runoff from agriculture or proximity to larger cities. I had never imagined the pH value of a single drop of water in the ocean could be so drastically affected by the presence of humans. Before taking Lise’s class, I understood that Midland desired its students to have a sense of environmental responsibility, but my previous Midland classes had focused on more immediately visible aspects of human destruction, such as deforestation and overgrazing of livestock, and never even got close to the environmental effects of refrigerants or hairspray in the ‘80s. Lise saw it all, and she made sure her students did too.
Although almost every Midland student since 2003 knows of Lise’s more obvious accomplishments, such as her book The Enduring Educational Model of Midland School, and although most have been to at least one talk on environmentalism or environmental chemistry with her, not many Midland students know how hard she works to improve our day-to-day lives. I always knew that she arranged our course schedules, but I only recently found out that this consisted of her sitting before a spreadsheet with every single student’s name written across it, spending hours upon hours organizing and reorganizing the classes to make sure that each student fulfilled their required classes and made it into at least one of their preferred electives. Once experiential Saturdays became a regular occurrence, she made sure there were enough offerings for each student to have something to do, encouraging juniors and seniors to lead their own activities. In this way, we all experienced the results of Lise’s hard work, though we did not give her nearly enough credit for it.
Although I have come to accept that, on occasion, done is better than perfect, I don’t think Lise actually ever tried only to get something done. At Midland, Lise strove for perfection every single day. She gave seventeen years of her life to this school and her students. She dedicated her career at Midland to serving our community in her own way and has left a legacy that will continue to make Midland more environmentally responsible and aware. Her legacy will continue at Midland as Ziggy and Will complete their senior year. For all of this and more, I can only say, “Thank you, Lise. We will all miss you.”
by Emily Cummings ’19