the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

English teacher Lisa Donee is many things but done

After years of teaching, Donee retires from her role as a teacher to continue prior passion projects and interests in different fields of study.
Dylan Wang
Students gather behind English teacher Lisa Donee (center) to acknowledge her influence as their teacher. Retiring this year, Donee has impacted generations of students. From alumni like chemistry teacher Garrett Lim (center right) to his son, freshman Lucas Lim (far right), and siblings or parents of current students, she will be missed by many people at Walnut High School.

The WHS band is playing their rendition of the “Sons of Westwood” fight song and the Associated Student Body is welcoming new freshmen with glee. Teachers are catching up with colleagues and students are rushing to class. It’s a typical first day of school, beginning the 2024-25 school year, but there is a distinct lack of Hello Kitty in room B2. With the retirement of English teacher Lisa Donee, her Hello Kitty decor finds its way back to her house and away from the school after 33 years.

A veteran in the teaching career with 35 years under her belt, Donee is retiring from her position as an Honors, College Preparation and International Baccalaureate (IB) English teacher. She is now one of the last in her original group of teachers retiring from her position. 

“I’ve worked so long now in this career that a lot of [my] kids had parents that I taught,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing to get to see kids grow up, to get to see them graduate, come back from college and [watch] how their lives have been impacted by Walnut High School.”

It’s a huge blessing to get to see kids grow up.

During her time at Walnut, Donee brought in many new additions to the academic and student environment. She introduced the IB curriculum with Larry Holmes, a former Dean of Language Studies, something that she is proud to watch grow as the program develops. She also spent the beginning of her career being the class adviser for four classes (classes of 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2015) as well as the adviser for several service clubs like Key Club for a few years. 

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“I think kids complain about things like Prom, but they don’t get how much work it takes to put into planning them [and] how many thousands of dollars it costs to get the facility, pay for the security and make sure they have an entertaining time. I got to see a different side of it,” she said. “I loved planning senior breakfast. I don’t teach seniors that often so it was my opportunity to really stay in touch with them.”

Donee also co-launched the Mentoring Opportunities for Reading Enrichment (M.O.R.E) tutoring club with now retired English teacher Connie Spencer in 2002, working with second, third and fourth graders who faced difficulty comprehending what they were reading. Grade schoolers were matched with a high school buddy every Wednesday and switched off each week. 

“If we don’t start young, when they get to high school, it’s going to be a really difficult experience,” Donee said. “We really wanted to instill that love of learning at an early age.”

Aside from being a teacher and adviser, Donee is an avid traveler. Traveling gives Donee peace of mind; it allows her to have a different perspective of the world, to get out of the “bubble that we live in” and to see other cultures and people. Donee went to South Africa last year and is going to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands this summer. Donee frames pictures of scenery that she takes on her classroom walls but says she can never “do it justice.”

“Every tour and trip I’ve been on, I’ve taken something away from it and it has made me more of a well-rounded person,” Donee said. “Some of the people I’ve met through my travels I’m still friends with today. I’m going on a UCLA alumni trip this summer [and] I like going with people that I don’t know so I can get to know groups.”

[Being a teacher] shaped who I am.

Donee graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English with a minor in Education. She got her next degrees through a program with Claremont Graduate School that allowed her to earn her Master of Arts degree and teaching credential at the same time. 

“I thought I’d be a nurse at one point and then in a roundabout way, I was just led to education when I got to UCLA for English. I just couldn’t believe I was getting a degree for something I was just so fascinated by doing. I get to read a book and analyze [it]. It sounds terrible if you’re a student, but I loved it,” she said.

After her student teachering, she taught full-time at Claremont High School before joining Walnut for the next three decades. Donee shared she loved her job from day one. 

“[Being a teacher] shaped who I am. I grew up with the school. I came here when I was in my early 20s and had an amazing group of mentors from GLCs in the past — Lorelee Miller, Jerry Dutton, Al Calonico, Scott Cassells, Sue Boyette —they have just become such a huge part of my life. I still see them now and a lot of their advice I use now,” Donee said. 

While a majority of her life revolves around teaching students, Donee was also a UCLA Writing Project Fellow in 1992-95 and 2018, joining many UCLA writing workshops, aiming to learn how to facilitate different kinds of writing that are not limited to contemporary literature, analysis or nonfiction. 

“This experience made me a better teacher because I came back with new ideas and learned different approaches from collaborating with my colleagues there,” she said. “I love to attend workshops and there’s nothing better than a morning when Ms. Maletz and I have a conversation about literature, writing or IB ideas that we’re sharing. To me, it makes my whole day.”

In addition, Donee was also an IB Assistant Examiner from 2005-16 and a Senior Examiner from 2010-16, grading papers and listening to recordings from all over the world. Through this experience, she learned strategies from reading how other teachers taught their students and applying them to her teachings to make herself a better teacher. 

“[Grading] took my spring breaks and every weekend,” she said. “I would go to Panera or the local library to grade. I don’t like music being played in the background so I’d go somewhere quiet.”

[My students] make me laugh more than anybody.

After retirement, Donee wants to work with other student teachers through a credentialing program. She is fascinated by the ideas her current student teacher brings to her class and hopes to work with other youths in this generation. She also wants to spend more time with her puppy Bently and her cat Sasha and get together with her friends more often. Finally, one of her goals after retirement is to reimmerse herself in classes like film or art history, classes in which she can enjoy her love for learning without needing to write a paper or be graded. 

“I have been so lucky to come to work every single day and have these encounters with students, have these insights shared and be able to watch them grow. They make me laugh more than anybody,” she said. “I’m going to miss the structure of coming to school every day, and I’m going to have a hard time the first day when you all go back to school and don’t know if I’ll ever see you guys again.” 

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Rylyn Wang
Rylyn Wang, Feature editor
Hi my name is Rylyn Wang, I'm in the 10th grade, and I'm the Feature editor for The Hoofprint. Outside of The Hoofprint, I am in several clubs. In my free time, I enjoy reading and scrolling through my phone.
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