The School Newspaper of John Carroll School

Courtney Von Lange seeks to educate students to help environment

March 1, 2015


Photo courtesy of Courtney Von Lange

Math teacher and cross country coach Courtney Von Lange (far right) poses with senior runner Amanda Spaeth, class of ’14, and coaches Mike Monaghan and Robert Torres after the last meet in 2013. Von Lange has worked and coached at JC since 2012.

Math teacher Courtney Von Lange didn’t start out as a teacher. She was working in environmental engineering when she began to wonder if what she was doing was making a positive impact.

“After being in that field for a while, I wondered if it was the best thing for the environment,” Von Lange said. Most of her work involved stream and wetland restoration.

According to Von Lange, the construction and problem-solving that she was doing began to look like a simple Band-Aid. In order to help people understand how their actions affect the environment, she began to think about teaching.

To achieve her goal, Von Lange got a certificate in physical science, the closest thing to certification in environmental science, which was what she wanted to do. Soon after, she was hired at JC for the 2012-2013 school year.

“They were looking at my background and said, ‘You could also teach math, couldn’t you?’ because I had done a lot of math when I was in college,” Von Lange said. “I thought that if we had people who understood math working for the environment, maybe we wouldn’t have some of the problems or misconceptions that we have.”

Von Lange had had a year of teaching experience before her work at JC. After college, she was applying to graduate school but not going right away. She heard about an opening for a teacher at Oxford Academy, a boys’ boarding school in Conn. where her grandfather had worked and decided to do that for a year to save money. While there, she taught calculus, pre-calculus, and a geology elective.

The other aspect of her job is coaching girls’ cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. Coaching was another reason that Von Lange wanted to switch careers to teaching.

“I was involved in [coaching] when I was in high school and college, and I missed that connection,” Von Lange said. According to her, it’s similar to teaching in that coaches try to establish a long-term plan for the season the same way that teachers have an outline for the semester, week, or even day.

“I think young athletes don’t understand why they’re doing some of the workouts that they’re doing, just like in math you don’t understand why you have to learn [a certain topic],” Von Lange said.

In coaching, according to her, the relationship with the students is slightly different than in teaching because the coach trains the physical body while the teacher trains the mind.

Through her time at JC, Von Lange has taught Environmental Science, Algebra 2, Engineering, and Algebra 3/Trigonometry. Next year, she may also teach calculus.

“We need people who understand math, numbers, and especially statistics, to work for the environment,” Von Lange said.

Kathy Deaver is the Online Chief for The Patriot and

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