Thiel Spotlight: Rejoining community


Lilah Carey

Thiel talking about her students. She works to create a healthy learning environment for them.

Modern World History teacher Elizabeth Thiel has spent her entire career working for PPS, just recently making her way back to McDaniel after a six-year leave. 

Thiel always had a passion for making an impact on her community, eventually discovering that teaching would satisfy her desires. 

Throughout college, she had no idea what to do with her career. Luckily, near the end of her time in college, it hit her that she wanted to become a teacher. 

“I wanted to do something that did good for the world, I wanted to work with people,” Thiel said. “As a teacher, I could have a huge impact.” 

She taught middle school for 12 years before moving to McDaniel for three years. In 2015, she began her six-year leave to work for the president of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), representing all certified educators in the district. 

She worked with other educators during the pandemic to figure out how to make online school work for students and teachers. 

“I wanted to become more involved because unions are such an important and powerful voice for making our schools better,” she explained. 

It was always her plan to come back as a teacher, and she figured this year was the time to come back. Now she teaches Modern World History.

Thiel especially loves teaching freshmen because she feels it is an honor to welcome them to high school. 

“It’s a big step in students’ lives and helping them to make sure they get the most out of high school and put themselves on the path they want to get on is exciting,” she explained. “I believe in them and when myself and other teachers hold them accountable to do maybe more than they want to, it’s because we see so much potential.” 

Thiel never anticipated how time consuming the teaching would become. 

“A lot of people think teaching is just you know, ‘aren’t you done at 3:30?’, but you think about it all the time–24 hours a day,” she shared.

No matter where she works, McDaniel will be Thiel’s homebase. 

“The students, the staff and the administration is just such a fantastic community, and I think balanced,” she said. “There’s different things going on at all different schools, but McDaniel is a place I think that really values people for who they are and you can feel it.” 

There is no place Thiel would rather be than here with the community.