Editor’s note: As part of our celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we are highlighting a few outstanding educators from classrooms across the state. We thank all teachers for their dedicated work with Iowa’s students this past year.

Today’s Q&A session spotlight features Murray Community School District teacher Laura Hollinger. Hollinger has taught for 28 years and currently teaches Talented and Gifted for grades 2-12 and business and technology for grades 9-12 for Murray Elementary and High Schools. 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was Richard Graves. He taught a fascinating subject in a way that was interesting, and he was always helpful, supportive and encouraging. He shared experiences from his life that were foreign to our way of life in southern Iowa and captured our attention. After high school, when I had determined that I wanted to be a teacher, he continued to encourage me and told me he wanted to see me come back to our high school so we could be colleagues. That always made me feel good.

Why are you passionate about teaching? What things do you love about working with students? 

I love the subjects that I teach and want to share that love with my students. I know that the skills I help to develop in them can be used beyond high school, and I love to see their successes after they graduate. I love the moments when you see them becoming interested in the same types of things or the moments when they realize something new. I love when students challenge me in my subject areas because I know that they are starting to think deeply and apply their understanding to new situations. I love seeing students become successful in whatever they love, and I love being a part of that.

What do you think are the keys to a student’s success and how do you help foster that? 

I think the keys to student success lie in a solid support system. Family, friends, teachers or coaches that encourage and support through the trials and errors as well as successes can be key in developing skills in the youth that they will carry into adulthood and help them to continue to grow.

Over the years, how have you grown as an educator? What opportunities do you see in the next few years in education?
Over the years, I feel as if I have become more patient. I have grown in my ability to reach students from different ability and interest levels; meeting each one where they are at and helping them to grow in their knowledge and skills.

I believe that in the next few years students will have an even greater need for a solid support system. In education, we are still dealing with the damage the COVID shut-down had on our young students, and as they grow, they are having to negotiate the typical development issues with recovery from a situation that, historically, students have never had to handle. For adults who have a heart for our youth, there will be opportunities to help provide that support system in the future.

What advice would you give to a new teacher starting out in the field? 

My advice to new teachers would be to exercise patience to a degree they have probably never needed before.  Education is an incredibly tough field. You can love your subject, but if you don’t love people--even the tough-to-love students, parents, co-workers, administrators -- you will be unlikely to last long.  Further, I would tell new teachers to build on their own support systems. They will need the support of their family, friends, religious leaders and counselors to be able to continue to provide their students and the community what they need in an educator. Teaching is so much more than lesson plans and worksheets.

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