Laurie Strong: three decades of working with children
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Principals, teachers, kids … Laurie Strong has seen them come and go in her 30-year quest to help kids succeed.
It’s the kids that keep her going.
Strong works with kids who aren’t meeting standards in literacy at Sopris Elementary School and also works throughout the Roaring Fork School District Re-1. Sometimes later on down the road, kids she knew facing challenges or family trouble in grade school get in trouble with the law. But sometimes they start a successful community business, join the Air Force or do something else to really make something of their lives.
These are some of the worst and the best parts of the job. However, Strong sees more success stories than frustrations. It’s vexing to see trouble down the road for certain kids, but it’s rewarding to see the light bulb go on when a kid starts getting things, and to watch them succeed later on. Many times when Strong’s spotted around town old students hug her, she said.
“I really care about them,” she said. “I care about what happens to them.”
The work with kids is rewarding enough not to be able to quit after 30 years.
A nationally recognized consultant with PEAK Learning Systems continues to offer her a job.
“She is fabulous,” said PEAK vice president Roz Rogers. “She has had incredible success with her students and that is one of the main reasons why we like to take her to other school districts around the country and have her share her successes.”
Strong knows she could reach more people with consulting, but refuses to stop working directly with kids.
“I couldn’t bear to leave the kids,” she said. “I guess I’m not done yet.”
Strong taught at Carbondale Elementary School for 13 years, transferred to Glenwood Springs Elementary School and then to Sopris Elementary School when it opened about eight years ago. In the mornings she helps kids with literacy at SES. Then during the afternoons she helps teachers throughout the district with programming and improving teaching methods.
Her grandfather always wanted her to become a nurse or a teacher. But Strong, who struggled in school herself, seems to be one for the underdog anyway.
“I struggled in school and wish I had teachers who really cared and worked with me,” she said.
Strong also had a little sister who would have been handicapped if she survived a brain tumor. She agrees maybe that has something to do with her gravitation toward helping struggling kids.
“I know she would have needed help,” she said. “I would have wanted someone patient for her.”
To do her work, Strong focuses on first creating a safe environment for the kids, where they are supported and can’t be made fun of. In addition to working on phonics and building vocabulary, Strong talks through stories in efforts to teach kids how to understand them and keep their focus. She said she also teaches them to monitor their own thinking.
“The more and more we learn,” she said. “We have to teach kids to constantly be focused on their reading.”
A group of students just finished a story in “Nature’s Fury.” Now there’s a poster on the classroom wall to illustrate components of the story. Part of her goal is to help “concretize” lessons kids are learning.
Strong lives within walking distance of the school but said she always drives since she has so many materials she takes back and forth to school each day.
“My goal is to get it down to a backpack,” she said.
When she’s not at school she can often be found driving, chipping and putting away at the Lakota Canyon or Rifle Golf courses. Or possibly working on jigsaw puzzles or spending time with her two Border Collies, Brown and Major.
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