Laura Shrewsbury, the instructor in the Teacher Education program at River Bend Career and Technical Center, has been involved in ballet dancing ever since she was a child. She moved from early lessons, to ballet recitals to different ballet studios, and even danced with a professional company in the greater Boston area for quite a while! She gained much from her love of dancing over the years, and one of the things she gives credit to is her desire to become a teacher at an early age!
When Laura was about 15 years old, her ballet instructor came to her one day and asked if she might like to become an assistant teacher in that studio. Laura said “yes”, and found herself helping budding dancers from age 3 to high school perfect what they were doing. The more she helped and assisted, the more she really loved what she was doing, and she knew teaching was the path she hoped to follow. For Laura, working with each individual dance student to find the best accommodations and strategies to help the student meet their goals was very rewarding, and it was great to see the students move to the next level of difficulty.
After high school, Laura enrolled at Salem State College in Salem, MA, as an education major. The school required each education student to focus on one area of concentration, and she chose mathematics. After graduation, she continued to teach in an area ballet school, and was not actively seeking a teaching job at that moment. Once again, her ballet connection came to guide her to her next step when one day an uncle of one of her students burst into the studio and wanted to talk to Laura. He was a school administrator in a neighboring town, and he knew she had a degree and Massachusetts certification to teach mathematics. He was in a school that had an immediate need for a math teacher, and was having a desperate time finding a qualified candidate. They talked, and the job was hers, teaching math at an inner-city trade and technical high school. She loved it!
While in her position as a math teacher, the State of Massachusetts really made a push in certain areas of the state to help teachers become “Highly Qualified”, a level of professional merit that included a master’s degree in the subject area they were teaching. As a result, Laura earned her master’s in math from Salem State College, at almost no cost to her, while still teaching!
After several years in the trade and technical high school, Laura moved to a teaching position in a suburban school in Massachusetts, teaching 6th grade. In 2006, she joined the faculty at Oxbow High School, where she was teaching math (mostly freshmen math) until June of 2019. During her years at Oxbow, she really enjoyed the opportunities she had doing interdisciplinary units with other teachers and designing project-based learning experiences for her students. Throughout her teaching career, she had given much thought to what it would take to “teach” potential teachers. The idea of teaching in an education department really excited her, even though it would probably mean returning to a university and earning her doctorate to find a position. As with any of us, life sometimes has different plans for us, and starting a family and raising children certainly put some of our dreams on a “backburner”. This was true for Laura, until River Bend advertised for an instructor for the Teacher Education program last spring.
Coming to River Bend has allowed Laura to find the “perfect fit” in what she had wanted to do, and she loves it! She still helps students from all programs with math skills during part of her day, which is great; and her experience in teaching the Teacher Education program has been wonderful! One of the most positive things about her teacher-ed class is the students’ passion for learning their subject. The way that Laura is designing the class capitalizes on the students interests in education.
Laura has been able to create unique field experiences for her students, no matter what direction they might be interested in. Students spend time completing field experiences with community partners such as Bradford Elementary School, Newbury Elementary School, Thetford Elementary School, Woodsville Elementary School and Watch Them Grow Pre-School and Daycare. The opportunities to explore various education field sites is driven by the students’ interest in the different professions in education. For example, Laura has had a student interested in school counseling as a direction. As a result, that student will continue to shadow and learn from school counselors in various settings and age groups. The flexibility that Laura has built into her program and the individual nature of each student’s experience speak to a concern that she has that faces all students. She is constantly looking for ways to help students engage in their own learning, to expand their imaginations beyond the ease of technology, and to think deeply about learning.
In the classroom, students learn about curriculum, methods of teaching, assessment, observation skills and report writing. Each student is also given training with CPR, First Aid, working with blood borne pathogens and mandatory reporter training, all industry-wide recognized credentials. The class also allows students to accumulate up to 12 college credits from Vermont Technical College (VTC) and Community College of Vermont (CCV) while completing the program. The college courses are: Introduction to Psychology (VTC); Communication in the Early Childhood and After School Workplace (CCV); Introduction to Early Childhood Education (CCV); and Human growth and Development (CCV).
Laura is currently working with the Vermont Department of Education and CCV to become a pilot school to offer a national certification, recognized in all states. Starting in the next school year, she is hopeful that students will be able to earn their “Child Development Associate” credential within her program. The requirements are rigorous and require much commitment on the part of each student, but she feels her students will rise to the challenge.
Despite all that goes into developing a new program, starting a new career, and taking on various leadership roles at River Bend, Laura seems to find time to be a mom to her children, constantly on the road to attend games and events. In addition, she is still teaching ballet three days each week! River Bend Career and Technical Center is honored to have Laura as part of the faculty, always “raising the bar” for each student!