As a child, Lauren Harlow struggled in school with reading and writing, but it is now her favorite subject to teach.
The Hopkins Elementary teacher said some students come in not even knowing how to write their names, or what their names look like, but are reading books at the end of the year. She said reading books allows her students to see there’s a whole world out there and she likes how they can connect their learning to what they’ve read.
Harlow has been a kindergarten teacher at Hopkins for eight years and taught one year of first grade. She prefers kindergarten because they are coming in brand-new, and they’re all on different levels, so she can get them together and excited about the school year.
Harlow always wanted to be a teacher and used to give her friends homework when she played school. In high school, she was in Future Educators of America and did student teaching programs.
“I really liked helping others… helping them learn and … making learning exciting,” Harlow said.
A typical day in her classroom starts off with lots of excitement, as her students have family meetings in the morning where they greet each other and play games. She may be structured, and her students know her routines and expectations, but she also likes to pause to have dance time and allow them to share work and ideas.
“A lot of my classroom activities are kind of student-chosen, where I have things around the room,” Harlow said, “but they are allowed to go and pick what interests them so a lot of student-focused things.”
For some of her students, it is the first time they’re entering into a structured educational environment. Harlow said giving them a head start on their education has a huge impact on them, and she loves showing them what they can accomplish.
What she loves about teaching and being in the classroom is developing relationships with her students and figuring out how each one works so that when one has a problem, she has the background knowledge to figure out how to help.
Harlow has a reading specialist degree, and though she could pursue that, she said she does not want to leave the classroom because she likes interacting with the kids on a one-on-one basis and having fun with them.
“[I love] being with the kids, having fun with [them] and seeing how their minds think and how they come up with ideas and share things,” Harlow said.
Harlow was announced as the school’s Teacher of the Year. She said it was a great honor and she couldn’t have done it without her colleagues.
“I was very honored and very shocked about it, but I think the school community and I worked together, and really we’re all Teachers of the Year,” Harlow said.