Maddie Laaksonen Returns to NDA as Substitute Teacher for a Semester


Cassi Garrison, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

“Being back is definitely strange, to say the least,” said Notre Dame Academy substitute teacher Maddie Laaksonen.

Laaksonen graduated from NDA in 2019 and from St. Norbert College in 2022. She has decided to substitute teach at NDA for the semester before pursuing a career in geology.

“It still sometimes feels like I only just recently left NDA because I graduated in 2019,” Laaksonen said. “Sometimes I look around and everything seems so familiar, and yet a lot has changed in the three and a half years since I have been gone.”

During high school, Laaksonen was involved in a wide variety of activities, from two years of global finals for Destination Imagination to three years serving in NDA’s student government.

She is the daughter of German teacher Frau Laaksonen, so she said it’s not surprising that she was a member of German Club all four years of high school.

“I also became involved in theater productions, including The Addams Family during my junior year, and then my senior year I became co-stage manager for Bye-Bye Birdie and Clue.” 

She was also voted Most Likely to Be a Teacher at NDA in the senior issue of The Tritonian, so she said that her friends were not surprised when she started substitute teaching here.

However, her true passion is geology, which she majored in at St. Norbert with a minor in German.

“I’ve been collecting and analyzing rocks I have found since I was very young,” she explained. “However, it was not until I begged my parents to take me to a mine shaft for my seventh birthday that I realized just how much I loved studying the earth. Something about being hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface really piqued my interest.”

From there, Laaksonen’s love of geology grew even more, and she knew she wanted to study it in college.

After earning her graduate degree, Laaksonen plans to earn a Ph.D. and hopes to become a professor where she can “teach and research subterranean geomorphic changes due to surficial fluvial activity.”

Even though her college experience was definitely different due to her freshman year being cut short because of Covid, the substitute teacher managed to make the most of her time as an undergraduate.

“I went on a variety of field trips exploring the geology of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” she said. “Despite all odds, I became extremely close with my fellow geology majors, and I also became VP of Geology Club.”

She also got to partake in a trip to New Mexico last summer, which involved a lot of hiking and mapping in areas without cell reception or amenities. 

“It was one of my favorite experiences because disconnecting from a virtual world allowed me to reconnect with the real one,” Laaksonen said. “Although my undergraduate was not easy, I did enjoy my time while at St. Norbert College.”

She called working alongside her mom at NDA “amazing” and is grateful for the time they get to spend together. 

“One day I know I will look back on this time substitute teaching and realize how memorable this point in my life was. Getting to spend this time with my mom only makes that more special.”