Alumni (and Parent and Teacher!) Spotlight: Lana Beck-Cruce
Lana Beck-Cruce, 3rd & 4th grade teacher, holds Harmony School very near and dear to her heart. Not only is she a teacher here but also a parent and an alum. In fact, the locker she painted in 8th grade is still preserved in the upstairs hallway! Lana shares her story, reflecting on her connections to Harmony from 1994 to today.
What brought you to Harmony, and what was your experience as a student?
I started at Harmony in 1994, in the 7th grade, and graduated in 2000. I went to my mom’s school before that. She ran a daycare, then a preschool and elementary school. She has a masters in education, and loves teaching and child development. At some point I outgrew her school, went to public school for a couple of years (Templeton and University), and then applied to Harmony for middle school. When I started at Harmony I remember thinking, “I found my people!” My parents were kind of hippies…I grew up in an intentional community, grew up vegetarian. At Harmony I met kids who understood that and didn’t think I was a weirdo. I made great friends right away. Three of my best friends to this day I met at Harmony in 7th grade.
Academically I did pretty well, too. I was a self-motivated learner. Teachers saw the things I was passionate about and they gave me spaces to do that and incorporate it into school. I loved researching and writing papers about things I cared about, I was motivated to do that on my own. The things I didn’t care as much about, my teachers treated it as a negotiation, they worked with me. I appreciated that.
I loved our camping trips, the outdoor exploration. We went to a camp in middle school that had a high ropes course and a lake to canoe on. We went on a white water rafting trip to North Carolina. In high school we took big trips to DC and New Orleans. I graduated a semester early and didn’t go on the last senior year trip… I think we went to the Ozarks that year.
I had so many fantastic teachers. I could tell you great things about all of them! Ursina was a very influential teacher for me in middle school, she is great at community building, and those trips were very much a part of building that community. I love that Ursina was my teacher and now she is my colleague!
Being a teacher myself now, and looking back, I realize how young some of my teachers were then. A couple were in their early 20s. They seemed so much older to me at the time. One young teacher, Helena Miller, really stands out in my memory. She was a brilliant teacher, super cool, smart, and feminist. She really prepared us for college, she taught me how to write a college paper!
For my senior project, I created my own art through different mediums and shadowed artists who were working as full-time artists. I rented a tiny studio, a garage in a friend’s parents’ backyard. Their record player and old records were in it, and a tiny wood stove. I had a lot of cozy days listening to Bob Dylan records and making art. That was awesome. I took short trips to Chicago, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Savannah, Georgia. I stayed with a photographer in Chicago and hung out with him while he worked, and visited the Art Institute. I shadowed career artists around Bloomington too. My project’s question centered around whether or not I wanted to become a working artist; would art be a career for me, or a hobby? (The answer ended up being, a hobby!)
I threw together my proposal really quickly, because I found out I had enough credits to graduate early and jumped on that. In retrospect I definitely remember seeing some of the projects other seniors did and thinking, oh, I could have traveled to another country, did something more!… but at the time I just felt ready to be done with high school.
What was your path to becoming a teacher? And your path to teaching at Harmony?
My mom was a teacher, and definitely since my undergrad I knew that I wanted to work with kids. I worked in childcare starting in the end of high school and through college. I majored in Social Work at IU, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with that degree. I ended up having my daughter as a senior in college, and after graduation John and Lucy and I moved to Oregon. I worked a bunch of random jobs in Oregon when my daughter was little; I was a nanny, a personal assistant, worked for a non-profit that placed foreign exchange students; wrote copy for an educational toy catalogue. At some point while we were living out there I decided I wanted to be a teacher, and get back to a career path. I applied to an education masters program at IU, the Transition to Teaching program, and we moved back to Bloomington.
When we moved back, we enrolled Lucy in the ECP at Harmony. So that was my first reconnection to the school. I knew Linda from my time as a student, and had always loved her. When Lucy started in the ECP, Linda’s daughter Zara was the same age, so they were friends right away, that was sweet.
I was still in my teaching program at IU when I heard that Michelle, a 1st/2nd grade teacher at Harmony, was leaving. I wanted to apply for the opening, but they needed someone to start that fall and technically that was my student teaching year. But I applied anyway. Laura Beth had also applied to the job, and both of us had multiple interviews. Finally Roc called and said, “So, I’ve got bad news, and good news. We’re going to hire Laura Beth for the 1st/2nd grade room. But I have a crazy idea, are you sitting down?”
The idea was to start a new classroom, a multi-age classroom, because they had a big wait list that year. Since I was doing my field placement for my teaching program in the K-6 classroom at Templeton, Roc offered me that position. It was big and ambitious, me leading a new multi-age classroom by myself! Technically that first semester was my student teaching, but it was my own classroom. It was just 12 kids that first year, in grades K-4. I worked in that classroom for 2 years (though on maternity leave at the end of that second year). Then, another teacher, Jenn Ruff, who had moved to Bloomington to teach 3rd/4th grade, was wanting a change. So we basically just switched classrooms. She took over the K-6 room and I moved to 3rd/4th, where I still teach.
One thing I love about teaching at Harmony, the longer I’m there, is that I get to see kids grow up, go through high school. I feel like I know most of the kids in the whole school now. That community feeling is what I love about Harmony, and what I think a lot of people love most about Harmony. We all know each other. The teachers know their students and their families in a way that is deeper than is possible at bigger schools. Community and connection is there at the core. We focus on the whole child, teachers see kids as whole people – we value that, and that hasn’t changed. We take advantage of our small class sizes, and get out in the community, and take tons of field trips. We still give kids lots of time for play and being outdoors. These things make Harmony unique.
And I love having my kids here. I take it for granted. It would be weird to have them somewhere else. We took a sabbatical last year and lived in Mexico, on Isla Mujeres, a little island just off the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, and our kids went to a Mexican school for a year. I realized then how much I missed having them so close and knowing what they were doing every day!
If you’d like to share YOUR Harmony story, or help interview other alumni, please be in touch. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.