Tell me a little bit about your background and what led you to become a teacher.
I have been working with children since I was 13 years old. I babysat from middle school through high school, then went away to college and was an assistant teacher and caregiver at a preschool while I worked on my degree in Education. Halfway through my college career, I accepted a camp counselor position at the Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children. This summer camp program in the heart of Texas was 2 and a half months long and centered around children ages 5-19 with chronic illness and special needs. Growing up, I watched my family go through too much chaos trying to get my younger cousin, who has Autism, the supports and services he needed to grow and be successful in his community. Since high school, I knew I wanted to work with individuals with special needs and abilities, but working at this summer camp solidified my decision. When I returned to Michigan in the summer of 2009, I applied and was accepted into Grand Valley State University’s College of Education. I graduated in April 2012 with a degree in Psychology-Special Education, with a double endorsement in both Cognitive and Emotional Impairments. I have been blessed to been able to work for L’Anse Creuse Public Schools since September 2012. I have been in my current position as Lower Elementary Resource Room Teacher at Marie C. Graham Elementary for the past 5 years. In my spare time, I work for multiple families in the Rochester Hills area doing Respite and Community Living Support for children with special needs.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is watching students become independent at tasks they once struggled immensely with. One of my favorite educators and behavior analysts described the role of a special education teacher as such: “Your job is to lose your job.” As odd as it may seem, it is so true! My job is to do whatever it takes to get students to become so independent at daily skills and tasks that they no longer need me. Hearing stories of students demonstrating independence at home or out in their communities are worth more than any paycheck to me. Whether it’s learning to draw a star without a model, learning how to tie shoes, or demonstrating appropriate conversation skills with peers, every achievement in my classroom is the biggest achievement!
What stories stand out from your years of teaching?
One of my favorite stories is about a student I had during my first year of teaching. When she entered our building, her communication skills were limited, she had been through much more than any student should have been, and she was unable to read or write. Progress was not quick with this particular student, which felt extremely defeating to me. This student taught me the importance of patience, and how amazing things can turn out when you give students the gift of your time and just believe in them. Instead of celebrating only the “big” milestones like reading levels and writing assessment scores, we started celebrating everything! Every time she smiled, every time she let out a laugh, every time she offered to share an answer, we praised her and loved her more and more. Four years later, that same little girl now has more energy, positivity, and words to share than ever before. She now even has enough confidence to apply for school-wide leadership roles. She has taught me more about teaching in just 4 short years than all of my experiences working with children in my life.
What does this nomination mean to you?
I was in complete shock and surprise when I was told I was nominated to be Teacher of the Year- especially when I found out one of my favorite teachers of all time was nominated for the same award at the High School level. I have never felt so overwhelmed- in a good way- in my life. I have been blessed to have been a part of the L’Anse Creuse Legacy since I attended Kindergarten at Green Elementary. When I graduated college, my dream was to be able to move back home and work for the district that made me who I am today. For that dream to come true AND to be considered for such an honor is something I will forever be grateful for. When life comes full circle, it’s a beautiful thing. Over the past 6 years, I have been lucky enough to get to work with many of the educators who taught me. The teachers who were once my inspiration, and still are, are now some of my co-workers. How amazing is that?! So many of my favorite memories of going through elementary, middle and high school include the teachers I’ve had. There were so many who made me never want to miss a day of school, and I know they STILL have that effect on their students (you know who you are). On my hardest days, I think back to all the encouragement, support, love and understanding my teachers gave me, and try my best to give that to my students. Rita Pearson once said, “Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” I can say with 100% confidence that there are many, many champions within the L’Anse Creuse Public Schools District, and I am beyond lucky to know and work with them.
Lyndsey Lawrence is a Lower Elementary Resource Room teacher at Marie C. Graham Elementary School in Harrison Township.