By Hailey Palmer, Puyallup Tribal News
The Grandview Early Learning Center has changed a ton since language teacher Cynthia LaPlante attended as a child, but so much has also stayed the same.
The basketball court is still there, and when she hears the children talk and share stories it reminds her of her childhood.
LaPlante initially started working at Grandview as a teacher’s assistant when she was 14. She continued working there all the way through high school, but coming full-circle to teach Lushootseed teacher wasn’t exactly in her plans after graduation.
She was hoping to start her own business and was working a job at the South Hill Mall in Puyallup looking to gain some experience.
But Language Program Director Amber Hayward called LaPlante saying Grandview wanted language speakers to teach there and encouraged her to apply.
“I applied that week and started that week,” said LaPlante, who recently passed her two-year anniversary at Grandview.
Hayward recalled LaPlante as a young girl speaking Lushootseed at Chief Leschi and graduated from the advanced Lushootseed class taught by Language Instructor Archie Cantrell.
“She was often called upon in the community and at (Chief Leschi) to give speeches in Lushootseed for assemblies and even at her high school graduation,” Hayward said. “It’s amazing to see our young people take this work and move it forward for future generations. I’m very proud of her.”
Thinking back to how things were while she was not only a teacher’s assistant, but also to when she was a child, LaPlante is amazed at how far things at Grandview have progressed.
LaPlante said the culture and language implementation at Grandview has improved so much over the years with the number of speakers growing.
Passing on and teaching the language is something LaPlante feels is bigger than herself.
“I can help heal other people when they hear the language because it helps me just as much speaking it,” she said. “I realize how happy it makes me feel. I feel like it just gives me medicine to my soul and makes my heart feel so much better when I’m speaking it.”
LaPlante said she takes a lot of pride in being able to give back to the program she was a part of as a child and help keep the language and traditions of the Puyallup Tribe alive.
“I think it calls you because children are so precious,” LaPlante said. “It’s so important that, when you’re working with children, you put your all into it. They feel your energy, and I have such a deeper connection with the children because I’m able to teach them their traditional language.”
With that, LaPlante said she also puts a lot of pressure on herself to make sure she’s doing the best she can for the children.
“Whether it’s lesson plans or even just a small activity, I want to make sure I put my full effort into everything I’m doing,” she said. “It’s important for the children and I feel like I would be doing an injustice if I wasn’t putting my all into it.”
LaPlante is able to point to a number of teachers throughout her childhood that helped guide her to where she is now.
She’s hoping to be that someone to the children she teaches today.
“I really think if I didn’t have any of these people in my life I wouldn’t be who I am today,” LaPlante said. “I want to be that (person) and I want to help these children out the way that the other leaders in my life have helped me and left that imprint on me.”