Education graduate Lisa Foust named Missouri Teacher Leader of Tomorrow

by | May 28, 2024

The award honors student teachers and celebrates individuals with high potential to achieve greatness in education.
Lisa Foust, Pam Stanfield, Vicki Emerson and Stephanie Koscielski

Lisa Foust (second from left) is surprised with the Missouri Teacher Leader of Tomorrow Award by Pam Stanfield, UMSL alum and former Milken Educator Award winner; Vicki Emerson, Pattonville High School teacher; and Stephanie Koscielski, the director of clinical experience and school partnerships at the UMSL College of Education. (Photo courtesy of David Stofer)

Lisa Foust was ready for her last practicum observation of the semester when she settled into her biology classroom at Pattonville High School on April 15.

“I got my lesson plan ready, and I got my students ready,” she recalled. “I always let my kids know when observation days were, they knew that it was an important part of my grade. They were excited to be a part of the process and show Stephanie how much they knew about what we were learning about in class.”

Foust had no idea that she was in store for more than a classroom observation. But something seemed off when she realized Stephanie Koscielski, her practicum supervisor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was running late.

When Koscielski finally arrived, she entered the classroom holding a bouquet of balloons, with several other people in tow. The fanfare was part of a surprise celebration to recognize Foust as a 2024 Missouri Teacher Leader of Tomorrow. She was among 10 student teachers in the state to receive the award from the Missouri Milken Educators.

Founded by the Milken Family Foundation, the Milken Educator Awards recognize excellence in education by honoring the country’s top teachers. In 2021, the Missouri chapter of the organization established the Missouri Teacher Leaders of Tomorrow Awards to honor student teachers and celebrate individuals with high potential to achieve greatness in education.

Earlier this month, Foust graduated from UMSL with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and has accepted a position teaching science at Parkway South Middle School next school year.

Koscielski, who also serves as the director of clinical experience and school partnerships in UMSL’s College of Education, nominated Foust as a Missouri Teacher Leader of Tomorrow.

“Lisa is a knowledgeable, compassionate educator who is deeply committed to knowing each of her students personally and dedicating herself to teaching each one of them not only their biology content, but also meeting their social and emotional needs,” she said. “She is extremely flexible and versatile. In addition to classroom teaching, she coaches softball and basketball after school, and is a student council sponsor.”

Though Foust was recognized for excelling as a student teacher, she has worked in education for more than a decade as a substitute teacher, academic monitor and coach. She appreciates the nomination and views it as an extension of her previous contributions to the field.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged for all the time I have put in, how involved I am in the district where I work and how I’ve become skilled at doing what I do in the classroom,” Foust said.

Graduating college was a long-time goal for Foust, but the path to her recent success has been winding.

Growing up in Bridgeton, Missouri, she knew she wanted to be a teacher by the third grade. Her family camping trips and time in the Girl Scouts also piqued her interest in nature and biology.

After graduating high school, Foust attended St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley but wavered on pursuing education. She got married, started a family and eventually put school on pause. A job in Missouri’s Juvenile Justice System working with the youth at a facility in Lincoln County reminded her just how much she enjoyed working with kids. The experience spurred her to make a change.

“I started as a substitute teacher in the Pattonville district when my kids were little because they went to Pattonville,” she said. “I had the freedom to go to classroom parties and field trips and stay home with them when they were sick. Seven years ago, I got hired on full-time at the high school as an academic monitor.”

In that role, Foust has worked with students who have been socially promoted throughout middle school to high school. Her main goal as an academic monitor is to help them stay on track academically, become better students, attend school on a consistent basis and to build relationships with each of them so they want to be in class and enjoy being at school.

That was also about the time she decided to go back to school.

Initially, she intended to enroll at another local university, but the administrators told her she could not enter an education program on a part-time basis. Undeterred, she came to UMSL, which offered flexible courses and supportive faculty and staff members.

“Everybody has been extremely helpful, accommodating,” Foust said. “I work at Pattonville full time, and I coach, too. I’m super busy, and they helped me get it figured out to where I could go to school, work, coach and have time to live.”

Given Foust’s experience as a substitute teacher and academic monitor, the transition to teaching biology has been one of ease. She noted that the key to success as an educator is classroom management and part of effective classroom management is a sense of mutual respect with students.

“My students know I’m the boss, but that they get a say in how we do things in the classroom,” she said. “They determine the norms of the class. Obviously, I am going to push them in the right direction for the setting of norms, but they feel like they are an important part of the little family that we have for the hour we are together.”

Foust also prioritizes connecting with students on a personal level.

“I feel like it gets lost in the daily grind,” Foust said. “We’re teaching humans, and they have interests, they have the best personalities, and they are funny. Getting to know them is the best part of my job. Of course, there are teacher-student boundaries, but if they want to tell me about something, I’m going to listen and I’m going to remember. I work hard to remember their names, so on the second day of school I can call them by name, they know I see them and that they are important to me.”

Foust intends to pursue a master’s degree at some point in the future, but for now, she is enjoying her graduation from UMSL.

“It’s been my biggest goal my whole grown-up life. My brother and sister, my mom and dad, nobody has a degree, I am the first one to graduate college,” she said. “I do not know what I am going to do with myself because graduating college has been No. 1 on my to-do list for such a long time. But, graduate college, I am going to check that box finally. It is huge.”

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