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Laura Eliason – Taylor Elementary School

I have watched my wife teach for twenty years. She does do what so many other teachers do with all the extra time and money they put in that people who don’t live them see is happening behind the scenes. I think going above and beyond and pouring all of yourself and efforts into your job for the benefit of the children in your care is pretty “standard” for people who become teachers, or at least the teachers we have been fortunate enough to interact with. This year she happens to have our son in her class so I wanted to nominate her for this award. Laura’s care for her students does not end when the school day ends. I have seen her reply to student texts, emails, or phone calls in the evening when they have questions about their work (she gives them her cell number so they always have help if they need it), go to plays they are in or other events they invite her to, take time to deliver something needed to their home, and spend time visiting when seeing them out in the community. I have seen her worry about students when they are having trouble, spend extra time researching or taking classes seeing more knowledge of how to help them, and even include them in her prayers. I have seen her buy special lunch containers to match hers for the student who got diagnosed with diabetes to help her feel supported, make sure Santa didn’t miss finding her student who was homeless and his little sister that year, get help for a student who confided in her that she was being hurt by a family member, deliver things or visit homes when parents had a hard time getting to the school, and get extra little treats, presents, or books for students who needed a little extra pick-me-ups. She had a student who had something happen in school that made her stay out of school and not want to come back for years. When learning she would be in my wife’s class, my wife arranged to get together with our family and hers several times the summer before so that she could get used to my wife and feel comfortable with her before having her as a teacher. These and many more are all extra things that she does year after year, quietly, with no fanfare or attention. Teachers in Davis have these surveys that the kids and parents take. In those surveys one of the questions for the kids is “My teacher likes me”. 100% of the kids answered, yes, they did know their teacher likes them. If you ask them, though, they’d probably use the word “love”, because it’s true. She loves each and every one of them and they know it. Something my wife does very well that I think is above and beyond the usual teacher superhero qualities that so many teachers possess is the way she relates to the needs of her students. She cares about them as people FIRST, and the learning stuff follows. She tells her students over and over that “everyone has something”, meaning that everyone has something they have to work extra hard at, so to be kind to EVERYONE, even yourself. She reads books like the book “Rules” to her students to give them a peek into the lives of kids their age who have different challenges, and her classroom is a safe place for them (including her sharing with them) to share challenges and create an environment of compassion, love, and support. Students who hear over and over how they are behind grade level get to her class and hear celebrations of growth instead. She finds things that the kids who struggle with academics are talented in and finds ways to let them shine in front of their classmates with their talents. She reminds them over and over “everybody has something” they have to work extra hard at, but everybody also has strengths and talents, sometimes the school setting just doesn’t always show all the ways people can shine. She is always looking for things to help her better meet the needs of her students. She goes to classes, reads, and does her own research to help her learn ways to work with their individual needs. She has even reached out to parents to invite them to attend the classes as well, shared her personal books with them, and has spent countless hours answering questions or giving advice with parents who want to learn more about how to help their children, especially if they have questions about sensory processing disorder or autism. Not only does she feel love and care for her students, she cares about their whole family. She includes other things in her instruction besides the school subjects and teaching them to be compassionate people. The things she wants them to never forget, she puts down for them in her web page in a section called “Stuff to Always Remember”. (I’ve put it below along with a link.) Laura meets her students wherever they are and helps them realize what they can do. They know she loves them, they work hard for her, and they trust her. Sometimes she encounters students from years later saying that it made her day to see them and hear how they were “just talking about her and how she changed their lives the year she was their teacher.” Somehow she gets kids who never turned their work in before to get everything in. I think that’s because they know she cares about them first as people, and they don’t want to let her down. Students who may have had years of frustrations blossomed in her care, realizing they were capable of great things and continuing on to pursue more great things. These things and all the things she does that I don’t see are the reasons I think you should choose her for your KSL Teacher Feature award.

–Jim Eliason