Laura Powell was a student at Gardendale Elementary School and now teaches 2nd grade at GES. There is something special about that type of community bond.
Laura came from a family of educators. So often, teaching is a generational family profession. She has come full circle from student to teacher at the same school.
Teachers like Laura Powell are an important part of what makes GES a special place.
Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
Laura Powell: My husband, Joseph, has been listening, at times- selectively, to teacher talk for a little over 18 years. He truly is my biggest supporter and teamer in life. My girls, Abigail and Vivian, are entering the double digits soon. I’m very proud of my sweet daughters who are 4th grade Rockets! I love my family dearly.
My grandma, mom, dad, aunt, and sisters-in-law were all an inspiration to me as I followed in their footsteps. As a teacher and principal’s kid, I watched them care for children, develop positive relationships with parents, and create lasting friendships with coworkers, and it definitely piqued my interests. I’ve also always loved learning- just about anything and everything! So, I had a great desire to continue being a part of that special school community, and to keep learning something new every day with my little people.
In 2001, just after graduating from the University of Montevallo, I served as a K-3rd grade Speech Language Pathologist at Eakin Primary in Tennessee. I eventually moved back home and enjoyed serving as a K-5th grade Reading and Language Resource Teacher at Gardendale Elementary. These experiences really gave me a wonderful foundation and helped me understand how children develop. After earning my masters degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005, I became a third grade teacher which I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of my teaching years. Five years ago, I made a move to second grade, and I am very fond of this position as well. I’m proud to say that my relationship with Gardendale Elementary has definitely been a blessing, once long ago as a G.E.S. student, and now as a teacher and as a parent!
Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Laura Powell: My favorite part is encouraging thinking and building solid connections to learning. It’s neat to learn through song, art, movement, and just good ole’ conversation. Planning how to connect to our topics of study is exciting to me. Students responding to learning and seeing my students’ engagement is what I love the most! Meaningful connections and conversations are so important whether it be working through a math problem or learning how to make and keep friends.
Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself “this is why I teach”?
Laura Powell: Yes! There definitely are. It takes time to build a happy space where all learners can share comfortably within a respectful and caring environment. I call my kids- Powell’s Power-kids for those moments when you hear pleasant academic conversations, see motivated learners, and observe encouraging actions happening in our learning community with little to no prompting or reminders of expectations. The end of the year is a special time to reflect on how much my students have blossomed.
Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced during the pandemic?
Laura Powell: Keeping focused on the positives has been key throughout the pandemic. There was a lot of trial and error and figuring out how to make learning happen without meeting traditionally. My main goal with my students has been to celebrate progress and to continue being an example through never giving up. My kids are resilient, kind, and brilliant! I make a point to speak positively about them as often as I can.
Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
Laura Powell: Teachers are dedicated. Every second of each day counts at school. We create, support, encourage, motivate, organize and teach. We come in early, stay late, come in during the summer, are in training during the year and summer. We grade, reflect, think, and plan some more–all because we love our kids and want to help them to succeed in all facets of learning. Educating our future can be complicated, exciting, emotional, and yes- at times frustrating; however, all that energy expended translates into the love we have for our kids, community and school. We believe educating kids is the most important work, and we’re thankful for every ounce of support given.