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Four Questions with a Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalist

We caught up with Laura Lavery Boyd (Memphis '11), a Tennessee Teacher of the Year finalist, to talk about her teaching practices and lessons learned over her past decade in the classroom. 

An empty light-filled classroom with blue student desks. To the left, a row of green closets are in the background.

September 8, 2021

How do you involve families in your students' education? What have you learned about your students?  

Laura: I involve families in the classroom by using technology with Flipgrid. This is an edtech tool where I sent out a link to families and they can record a message to me. Some events have included: family traditions, introducing your pet/family member, family recipe, etc. I also use Padlet, an online sticky note messaging board, to build community with parents. The parents fill out goal setting for their child and interact with me. I also like to send out weekly emails with a brief synopsis about the learning. This keeps everyone involved and well informed. I have learned that my students are kind and relentless. They have learned to navigate a global pandemic while pursuing their education at the same time!

What is the biggest advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers/joining Teach For America?  

Laura: I highly recommend becoming a teacher if you want to develop your leadership skills and make a difference for the future generator. TFA is such a wonderful teacher-training program that truly equipped me with the necessary tools to lead my classroom with positive change.

What have you learned about yourself in your time being a teacher? 

Laura: I have learned that it is important to invest in relationships with all stakeholders such as custodial staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, and your fellow teachers. The work we do is extremely difficult, so you need to rely on one another for support. 

I have also learned that it is very important to pronounce students first and last names correctly. Names matter.

What's been the silver lining, if any, of teaching during the pandemic for you personally?

I believe the pandemic has opened up more opportunities for me to grow my professional network on social media platforms and to use my teacher voice to elevate the teaching process. I also have been more creative with my lessons!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you to Teach For America for always supporting me and my colleagues at Poplar Grove Middle School!