Former Spanish and ESL teacher tied teaching to sports workbooks.
Laurence Frame is a man of many talents and has a dream: One day they will come. Specifically, he would like a Major League pitcher to accept his challenge to get one hit in front of an audience as a fundraiser for his Field of Dreams project.
“Field of Dreams is a many-tiered attempt to keep old-timers playing,” Frame said. He thinks baseball is a game for any age.
Frame retired in 2001 from Gundersen High School in San Jose, teaching mainly in the Bay Area. He taught for more than 40 years, starting in 1966 as a student teacher in Pennsylvania and spending another year in Guam.
Most of Frame’s career was teaching in special education and bilingual education, but he always had an interest in sports as a way of relating to his students. He also taught English as a Second Language in elementary and secondary schools as well as in adult education.
In his time as a teacher, Frame wrote and illustrated 15 sports-based workbooks for several sports, using a bilingual format to help his students relate.
Frame still plays baseball, mostly playing catch and doing batting practice with his son. “Occasionally he gets his friends to get a game together,” Frame said. They have fun and once climbed over a fence to play at a high school.
“I try to get some crack players in these games to make it exciting, but so far, the level of this game is they try to defeat my son, myself and maybe my grandson. It’s just three of us trying to defeat a whole bunch of other players. Eventually if I get a good connection, we’ll go to a Major League team that will let us get on the field before a game and challenge a pitcher.”
Frame fondly recalls the time he snuck into a high school baseball practice session when he was teaching. “I asked the coach if he would like to have me throw and he had me pitch and bat. It’s just having fun in a different way, and you don’t have to be on a team to do it.”
Frame illustrated his workbooks and calls himself a sports fanatic educator. “I combined the interest in both areas and applied it to language arts and math in the classroom. I devised books that went along with professional sports.”
He had migrant students he tried to connect with, and sports was one way.
“A lot of children who are in bilingual education aren’t used to the education system yet and they’re restless, so they need something to interest them. Sports is one of the things that appealed to my students. Soccer itself carries a culture with it. If you’re a fan from another country, it’s a cultural thing you bring with you as a child into a new country,” Frame said.
Tell us about becoming a teacher
Frame studied physical education, minoring in science, in Pennsylvania and during student teaching, he focused on health and physical education. When he moved out west, he was looking for science positions. But in California, he said school districts needed special education teachers and he was looking for work in southern California, near the border with Mexico. “A lot of special ed kids at that time were Spanish-speaking and didn’t know English. All students have a need for improving their English, so I took a special education position. With my background in Spanish, it seemed like a quick in for me.”
Frame had been a banker in Pennsylvania before visiting his brother in Arizona. He eventually moved there and started substitute teaching while still working in banking. He finally got a teaching job and started studying anthropology. “The University of Arizona is an archaeological school, and I didn’t match my interests with their teaching. I did enter the master’s program and did post-graduate work in anthropology, and I took a lot of post-graduate courses in linguistics and anatomy, identifying bones and so forth.”
One of the things that came out of that experience was a research paper on New Guinea and inspiration to write a poem on the short time he spent living with and studying indigenous Papuans while enrolled in a linguistics camp. “I’m about to use this poem to help me write a novel on living with them, through a time machine.”
He likens it to living in a previous age and then coming to live in the modern world again. “I claim I’ve been through a time machine, a time machine that was really a helicopter that lifted me out of that area,” Frame said.
Teaching special education and ESL
After studying anthropology, he went to California and worked on a master’s degree in Mexican American studies and a minor in bilingual education. Frame said he got a lot of ESL positions because they were harder to fill when other teachers were struggling to find jobs. “I also had special education as my door opener. In one case in a school district, 300 teachers were laid off and they hired me because my focus was special education. It was a new field I learned as I went. I didn’t seem to have a lot of predecessors to guide me.”
What’s one thing you’re proud of doing as a teacher?
“I developed a sports program at school when I was having difficulty with the children at times. I developed sports groups, competitive sports games during recess, mostly basketball. The principal just loved it.”
Another thing Frame is proud of is the ability to turn anything into an impromptu lesson for students.
“There was a band of geese on a football field, and I took my children up to see that, regardless of what they were supposed to be doing. I thought it was a beautiful time. We saw 30 to 40 geese on the field, and I asked them questions that were based in math and language arts to provoke their thoughts. No one from the large classrooms went out to look. But I was happy to be flexible and interest children that way.”
Tell us about your family
Frame spends time with his adult son.
“My wife passed away a couple of years ago, but she was Mexican American, and she was beautifully bilingual and we worked together on developing the first sports workbook series, which I published eventually and sold some. We also did a series on different missions in California, in Spanish and English, to use in the fifth grade.”
What’s the first thing you did when you retired?
“My son always wanted me to retire early. My wife was happy. The house was paid off, so we traveled a bit. But then my wife was limited in her travels. Her parents were living in the same town, so it was beautiful to have them backing us. They only spoke Spanish, and I appreciated speaking Spanish with them all the time. I didn’t speak English when I went to visit her parents.”
Teacher Talk is a series of profiles on California teachers and other educators. To be considered for a future profile, please email Communications@CalSTRS.com, with Teacher Talk in the subject line.