5th Grade Crew Teacher
Meet Ms. Laura!
Laura Gray grew up living in multiple states until the age of 12. Because of her Dad’s job they lived in Seattle, Arizona & Iowa. Her family finally settled in Highlands Ranch back when it was still a very small town, it only had one stop sign and not a single grocery store! Laura graduated from ThunderRidge High School when it was still surrounded by nothing but prairie and the antelope still roamed near the school.
After high school, she headed off to Chapman University to pursue an Arts Degree, but learned mostly that she loved the ocean and did not want to be an Art Major! She then transferred to CU Boulder to receive her BA in Psychology. Laura has always been fascinated with the human brain and human interaction, and still very much is. She planned on going to graduate school to hopefully work with teens but got burnt out. She decided to take some time off of school and got a job at Pottery Barn part-time while also working in a design studio for a couple of years running their interior design program. Laura started to work on a Bachelor’s Degree from Rocky Mountain College of Art Design, leaving just shy of a few credits to get the degree. She went to work for another design company but at the end of the day, she still could not find the THING that would fill her career bucket. Later down the road after she became a mom she knew she wanted to be a better role model by choosing a career that was meaningful. She did some deep soul searching for a year before she made the choice to begin her Masters in Elementary Education from Regis University. What a crazy time that was! She worked full time while studying for her Master’s and was also pregnant with one of her sons. She worked hard and was able to graduate one year after her son was born.
Laura may not have started out wanting to be a teacher, but after pursuing other things, she realized that her true calling was in education. There she would be able to have a career that was built on making a difference in helping others, and that would allow her many interests and obsessions to become a reality. Laura knew she would like teaching, and according to a characteristics profile she took she was destined to be a “lifelong learner.” When Laura began working with kids she knew instantly that this was her passion and that she had finally found a way to help others foster a love for learning. Three years ago while student teaching she was trying to find a job and heard that Renaissance was looking for a long term sub. She was so excited about the school she right away printed off her resume and dropped it off at the front office that day. She could tell that REMS was doing something different. She didn’t know what it was but had to find out! After interviewing for the position, Deborah told her she had hired someone else for the substitute job, but wanted to know if she could come on board as a part-time Educational Assistant. This was a tough choice for Laura because she was worried being a part-time EA was not going to pay her bills. She decided to go with her gut and that taking the job to get her foot through the door was worth it. She soon received a text from Deborah saying that the long term sub in 5th grade had to leave and she was offered Laura the job! Laura was both ecstatic and terrified, she would be the third teacher coming into the Crew that year and only a weekend to plan for it! Laura said, “It was one of the scariest and most rewarding things I have ever done.” 2 weeks ago Laura had a zoom call with 3 of her students from that Crew, one who now lives in Florida. She still gets visits from her past students on a regular basis. They all still relive the craziness of that first year. During Laura’s first year she started to know the “something different” she felt when she first arrived. Laura said, “It’s hard to articulate it because I just feel it. It is what my first group of students instilled in me, that Crew is not just something we say but a way to live supporting one another through it all.”
One of Laura’s favorite parts of 5th grade is the time spent on voyages. Laura said, “One of the things I like best is when I get to talk with a colleague following a voyage. We ride the bus down the mountain and the whole time we are reflecting on how we just transcended with our kids. We talk about how hard the voyage was and what a sacred place it is. We take on all the challenges WITH our kids. We learn ALONGSIDE our kids. We have a parallel and shared experience that develops the kids and us. Renaissance has redefined for me what it means to do hard things and what it means to be one’s true self. This travels into the classroom as well, allowing a special place where we all are learning together.” By just stepping inside Laura’s classroom you can tell that she has bonded with her students and that they love and respect her. Her classroom is a cozy environment where her students feel very comfortable. And it sounds like it is a very fun place to be too! What Laura says she loves about her students is that they laugh ALOT! She definitely makes learning fun and exciting for her Crew.
Laura enjoys watching her students grow socially and emotionally in 5th grade. One of her favorite parts is what she sees happen on just about every voyage. Laura said “Some students will bring along a stuffy or a baby blanket and tuck it in their daypack, bed, or duffle bag, wherever it will fit and be unseen. They joke with friends, they make mildly (and wildly) inappropriate jokes and constantly try to one-up each other. In their hearts, they are still just children but on the outside, they are beginning to navigate growing up. Students enter 5th grade as children and leave the building as adolescents. It never ceases to amaze me how much they grow and develop in just 9 months. 5th grade is a precious time, not to be taken lightly because it is when social pressures start to seep in deeper and these children need autonomy more than ever to withstand it all. They need guidance far beyond academics so that they can learn to combat the pressures that come along with early adolescence. 5th grade was pivotal in my own life and one that I often wonder could have gone better if I’d had more people around me to help me stay true to myself”. Remote Learning has gone well for the Crew, with all things considered. Laura says she misses her Crew terribly. She misses being in the classroom and engaging with the kids. She does have a few students not returning next year and it is hard to know those are goodbyes she will not get.
In Laura’s free time, she loves being with her two boys ages 3 and 5. They enjoy being outside, playing legos, having movie nights, and reading. They all like to bake cookies together and stargaze. Her oldest loves trains and they have a goal to ride all of the steam engines that are still operating in Colorado. They have plans to visit many state parks as the boys get older and hopefully go somewhere they can really get a good look at the stars. After Laura’s boys go to bed she enjoys reading and binge-watching Netflix, like all us parents do when in need of a break! Laura is naturally a homebody, so give her a pair of slippers and a good book and she is content. This summer she is looking forward to time with her boys and hopes that things will become safer for them to visit but if not, she is looking forward to uninterrupted time with them. Laura is always so grateful for the time to reconnect with them over breaks.
Laura is a wonderful part of our school and we are so lucky to have her leading the way for our 5th graders. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your passion for education with us all.