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The Student News Site of Prospect High School


The Student News Site of Prospect High School


Q&A with Retirees: Lisa Cottrell

Stella Palm

Why did you come to Prospect?

“So I started coaching cross country in 2007 and I knew nothing about it. I started at Rolling Meadows and, over the season, everyone I talked to said ‘if you really want to learn about this sport, you should go coach with Dave Wurster at Prospect.’ So I contacted him and the following year in 2008, I started coaching [at Prospect]. Then I was coaching here for six years and … I knew a job was coming open in the special ed department, I applied for the transfer and came over here.”


What do you teach at Prospect?

“I’m a special ed teacher. I co teach, this year, three American Lit and Comp [courses], one intro to rhetoric, and then I have one strategies for learning, which is a special ed resource class.”


What did you study before you became a teacher?

“My bachelor’s degree is in special education with a minor in English and then I have a master of arts and literature and a master of Science and written communication.”


What was it like being a cross country coach at Prospect?

“Being a cross country coach is the best experience of my teaching career. I learned so much from the other coaches that I worked with, Dave Wurster and Pete Wintermute. I’ve also learned so much from the athletes, seeing them grow, seeing their perseverance, seeing how they supported each other and how hard they work. I mean, it was just a very rewarding experience. I don’t think any team works harder …  To me, I don’t think there’s a nicer or harder working group of girls in the whole school.”


Do you have any favorite cross country memories?

“Lots. Obviously winning state last year was amazing. [It’s] a great memory, especially doing it kind of in the mud … We were still considered a bit of an underdog then. I think people were expecting York to win kind of all season and they didn’t … We try not to look at the rankings, but I think we were ranked lower all season and so it was really cool to come out and show everyone what we had.”


What do you think you’re going to miss the most from cross country?

“Just that team spirit of, like, a whole family working together for one goal. And you know, just doing all the little things together to reach that one goal.”


Have any staff members or students made an impact on you while you’ve been here?

“Gosh, so many obviously. [Working with] Pete Wintermute … [is] a thing I’m gonna miss the most for sure. Seeing the way Pete puts his whole self, his whole heart into everything he does, and seeing the impact that that has on the girls on the team … They know so much that he’s behind them and that he’s there for them, you know, makes them willing to work even harder for each other. And I just think that the lessons that they learn from him and from each other are things that they’re going to take with them forever. And I don’t know that there’s another way to learn those lessons.”


Besides, cross country, what else are you going to miss from being a teacher at Prospect?

“I’m going to miss the people, community and my department. I mean, the other reason I wanted to come here [is because] I had been at the alternative schools before and I knew that Prospect had the best special ed department in the district and really the only one I would want to work in. So I’ll miss my department. Obviously I’ll miss kids and seeing that little light bulb go on when kids learn something. Even just kind of the laughs you have when you kind of catch a kid doing something they’re not supposed to do.”


Do you have any advice for current high school students?

“Make the most out of your time here, you never get to go backwards. The whole world doesn’t like high school. So take that, for the good or for the bad. I guess if you’re, if you’re not enjoying it as much just know that it’s not forever but at the same time, the things that you do enjoy you kind of can’t go back to either so make the most out of your time. Take the opportunities, try new things. Yeah, it might be your last chance to try certain things.”


What legacy do you think you’ve left on this school?

“I guess my name will forever be engraved on those cross country trophies. I mean, I do take a lot of pride in that. I’d like to think I had something to do with that. I mean, that wasn’t something that was done in a year. You know, it was something that we were working for from the moment I started coaching. My first four years [coaching cross country we] were fifth, sixth, fifth and fifth. And so we’re, you know, just been right there. It’s really cool to look at the board in the fieldhouse and know that I coached every single one of the girls on the board. I’ve done a lot of work in the district that I think benefits my colleagues moving forward. I worked on some district committees.”


Do you have any plans after retirement?

“I’m going to teach writing to people who want to learn writing, people who want to write, I’m going to do my own writing. I have a ton of books to read. I joined a gym to try to get back to running.”


What kind of writing do you do?

“I write memoir, so stories about my life, creative nonfiction. I had a really interesting childhood. So I have a lot of stories to tell about that … I have a lot of other essay ideas and things to write about more current things too. But the first book that I want to get out is kind of my growing up memoir.”

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Stella Palm, Managing Editor

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