Alumnus Corner: Anna Leo

LWW Class of 2015


Anna Leo

You know that dream everyone has of growing up, going to college, graduating with their degree in Secondary Education, and moving to the middle of the Mojave desert to teach middle schoolers? 


Like, seriously, you haven’t dreamt of that at some point in time?

Okay, well, I guess that since living and teaching in the boonies of Arizona hasn’t crossed your mind as a possible career or lifestyle choice, I’ll have to explain to you how I wound up living out here, and what it’s like.

I graduated from Lincoln-Way West in 2015, a good Midwestern girl with good Midwestern dreams. I attended a good Midwestern liberal arts college, and paid a good amount of money to go there. In 2019, I graduated with my degree in secondary education. All was well with the world. 

Unfortunately, my hopes of educating the wayward youth of America were dashed against the rocks of reality when, in 2020, a global pandemic struck.  Identity crisis in full effect, I spent the next six months living with my parents in New Lenox, Illinois, and cycling through approximately four outfits the entire time. Don’t act like you didn’t do the same thing. 

While cloistered in my childhood bedroom, a deep sense of wanderlust overcame me.  I must, I must work far away from here, my brain convinced me. I then translated this into a handful of job applications, one of which was in Bullhead City, Arizona. The Google images of the place looked awesome, and Google never lies, so, after my interview with the charming principals of Bullhead City Middle School, I packed my bags and skedaddled on West with my family of four packed into my tiny Chevy Cruze. It was glamorous, to say the least. 

Despite the fact that Bullhead City looks nothing like the resort-like images on Google, I’ve met many people that make up for the city’s 125 degree summer temperatures and lack of a Trader Joe’s.  My students constitute a large number of the special people in my life, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I would do anything for them (no matter how many times they try to sneak past me with inappropriate names on Kahoot). 

To be completely candid for a moment, and with my sense of humor pushed aside, I want to stress just how much working in Bullhead City has made me appreciate my time learning at Lincoln-Way West and living in New Lenox.  90% of my students receive free and reduced lunch, and many do not come to school with the materials they need to learn. A significant portion of my students live in hotel rooms, or sleep on floors or couches in homes that are not large enough. Drug abuse is pervasive in the surrounding area, and many of my students have a parent or sibling who is incarcerated. “Normal” has no standard. 

I was so blessed to have had a stable community to thrive in at West, and teachers and adults in my life that not only cared for me, but inspired me as well. Although New Lenox can seem uneventful at times, and school like a chore, just know that there are students who would crave the stability and opportunity that you have. My hope is to bring a little bit of West to Bullhead City, and maybe you can bring a little bit of West to the world around you, too.