Saint Ignatius High School

Speak Up

Liz Colborn's love for literature gets students talking. Here's a profile of the English department member from the Winter 2019 issue of Saint Ignatius Magazine. Front of the Class story by Lisa Metro.

English teacher Liz Colborn loves being Catholic.  In fact, that word – love – is what she sees as the center of her faith.
“Everything comes from love,” she says.  “How you treat others, the earth and how you treat yourself.  Love is what makes life worth living.”
The lifelong Catholic fell in love with Jesuit spiritualty via Katherine, the oldest of her three daughters.  Katherine attended Saint Joseph Academy and belonged to a youth group along with Saint Ignatius students.  Mother and daughter appreciated the contemplative nature of the Jesuits and their way of seeing God in all things.
Colborn’s classes reflect of the teachings of her faith.  Her English IV class is Diversity in Literature and Composition.
“It’s about Catholic social teaching,” she says. “We cover topics on people in the margins with the goal of understanding people who are different than we are.  It’s about the dignity of all people.  It’s about perspective.”
Colborn is a native of Schenectady, New York, and is a graduate of the College of St. Rose. She earned a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York (SUNY).  She decided on her career during her junior year in college. 
“Once I did my student teaching, that was it,” she says.  “I loved it.”
She views teaching as “10 percent content and 90 percent relationship.” Her objective in the classroom reaches far beyond teaching the subject matter.  She seeks to have her students shake any fears they may have, from the fear of being different, to the fear of speaking up in class.  Colborn eagerly invokes the Socratic method in her literature classes.  Students are required to write the discussion questions, so they have to think differently when the read the assignment.  Colborn wants them to look at things from different perspectives.  A Socratic discussion is not a debate, she says.  “The idea is to not shut anyone else’s opinion down. The more you allow in, the bigger the picture.”
Pat Gallagher ’04, Chair of the English Department, describes Colborn as optimistic, with an enthusiasm for Jesuit education that is palpable.
“Liz is always ready to try something new,” says Gallagher.  “She is constantly thinking of ways to innovate her teaching by introducing her colleagues and students to new literature and thought-provoking ideas. Her work on developing our English IV curriculum has been extremely valuable.” 
Most educators are readily able to describe the magic that happens between teacher and student, and Colborn is no different.  It goes back to building relationships and creating an environment that encourages the expanse of freedom and the boundaries of safety.  The magic, she says, starts slowly.
“That moment is when I’m in a class and a student asks a question and he speaks freely. I know the fear is gone. They’re willing to ask the uncomfortable questions…it’s not so much teaching as it is a conversation.  They’ll ask because they sincerely want to know.  And I want to give my answer and it all becomes an organic discussion.”

Getting to Know Liz Colborn

  • Joined Saint Ignatius High School in 2014
  • Member of St. Brendan Parish
  • Family:  Married to Tim Colborn.  Three daughters: Katherine, Veronica and Libby
  • Pets:  Scout Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird) and Bailey.  Both are Scotties.
  • Hobbies: Hiking, reading, traveling
  • Favorite place on earth (other than her classroom): Adirondacks