OH The Places You’ll Go

Teachers and Faculty End Their Chapter at LASA

Aidan Gannon, Staffer

Several LASA faculty members will be leaving at the end of this year, from teachers, to counselors, and even an administrator. World Geography teacher Neil Loewenstern, U.S. Government and Politics teacher Ronny Risinger, Academy Director Andy Paulson, and College Counselor Jamie Kocian are among those leaving the school. 

Both social studies teachers have been teaching for over a quarter of a century. Loewenstern said he’s been teaching for long enough that he is satisfied with his career, and very few things could tempt him into continuing to teach as he is content with what he’s accomplished.

“Well, I’m eligible to retire,” Loewenstern said. “I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, and I’ve been paying into the retirement system for 27 years. It’s been a great school.”

Over the time Loewenstern has been at LASA, things have changed significantly. Loewenstern taught at the Liberal Arts Academy (LAA), teaching both students in the magnet program and students at Johnston High School. Loewenstern moved with LASA to LBJ’s campus, then back to the current campus. 

“The biggest change is having our own campus the past couple of years now and having our own room,” Loewenstern said.

Risinger, who teaches AP Government, Constitutional Law, and Street Law, has similarly been at LASA since it was the LAA, before the school combined with the Science Academy. He noted that the sheer growth of the school and its programs was one of the major changes that he has experienced in his career.

“When I first started, the LAA was about 300 people total,” Risinger said. “We are now a big, big school, and so you lose a lot of that intimacy in that classes used to be smaller, and teachers would know everybody, and now we’ve lost a lot of that. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen.”

Despite the changes LASA has experienced, Risinger has served the school for years. He looks forward to seeing what happens both with his future and the future of LASA’s social studies department.

“Well, after you’ve done something for over a quarter of a century, it’s like, what’s next,” Risinger said. “Older people get entrenched in their ways, so maybe it’ll be a chance for a fresh start. I’ve done my part. Now it’s time for somebody else.”

Even though Risinger is ready to let other teachers take the lead next year, he said he hopes he has influenced the school. Risinger said if he could have an impact on the school, he would want students to be more active in the community via their education and have students focus on learning by taking action.

“I would love to be able to see students take more active involvement in the community as far as helping the community do something and learn by doing as a part of a school mission,” Risinger said. “A lot of the stuff we do is academic, but we don’t really see how it really works. If I could make anything change, I would try to be more active, involved in the community through educational endeavors.”

Working with some of the best, brightest, and most talented students in this district is personally fulfilling and thrilling to be a part of.

— Jamie Kocian, LASA College Counselor

Unlike Loewenstern and Risinger, Paulson said he is retiring because he believes he is at a place in his life where moving is more plausible. Having no more children living at his home has allowed Paulson to consider living out his retirement somewhere more comfortable.

“Both of my kids are leaving Austin as my daughter is graduating from UT this year and moving to San Francisco, and my son is going out of state to college,” Paulson said. “So, this is a great time for me to retire and move to Florida.” 

When reminiscing about how LASA has been for him, Paulson was rather positive. Despite changes the school has gone through, Paulson has still said working at LASA was a great experience.

“We have lost some excellent teachers, but, we have hired some excellent teachers and we of course have more staff compared to when I first started,” Paulson said. “I have loved working at LASA!”

Kocian, unlike some of the other faculty leaving the school, is not retiring. Kocian has plans to continue her career working as a college counselor.

“I had a right place-right time moment where I was presented with an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Kocian said. “It will allow me to do more of what I love about this job: working with students to find their best fit colleges and walking them through the application process in an intentional and authentic manner.”

Kocian has been a part of LASA for 15 years, and in college admissions for 21. According to Kocian, she has loved working as a part of LASA’s counselor group. 

“I love the people I work with,” Kocian said. “The counselors are amazing. We’re all working on our own areas of expertise, i.e. academic, college, and wellness, but it’s such a collaborative group willing to bounce ideas off of each other.”

Kocian has also experienced countless changes throughout her time with LASA. Changes to the school, particularly the increasing size, has led to shifts in the more personal side of her job.

“I came to LASA when the student population was about half the size it is now,” Kocian said. “An advantage of that size was the opportunity to really get to know the students I worked with. Over time, my interactions and conversations with students tend to focus solely on college applications, the school list, and essays. It’s harder to foster those relationships with all the demands on my time.”

Despite this, Kocian still considers working at LASA to have been a great experience. According to Kocian, the most fulfilling part of her time with LASA has been the students she’s worked with and the community she’s been a part of.

“I have absolutely loved working with LASA students over the years,” Kocian said. “Working with some of the best, brightest, and most talented students in this district is personally fulfilling and thrilling to be a part of.”