Katie Fagundes
Special to the Sun

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June 17, 2013
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Truckee Elementary educator 10th Teacher of Year finalist

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Truckee Elementary teacher Julia Lawrence has been selected as the tenth Teacher of the Year finalist. The Teacher of the Year committee recognized Lawrence for her commitment to meeting the needs of all students and her contagious positivity and enthusiasm.

“Julia Lawrence is special,” wrote one parent nominator. “She puts in the extra time or goes the extra mile to help a student be successful, and encourages the classroom to celebrate each other’s successes, and she never complains.”

Truckee principal Valerie Simpson described Lawrence as focused, persistent, and positive.

“She has a big heart,” said Simpson, “she loves her students and this is apparent each and every day with every interaction.”

On June 4, Shelly Wright of Plumas Bank, Michael Gelbman publisher of the Sierra Sun, and Charlie Riley owner of Truckee Hometown SEARS presented Lawrence with a Teacher of the Year finalist certificate, a $50 gift certificate to Office Boss, courtesy of Plumas Bank, and a $50 gift certificate from Truckee Hometown SEARS.

As a teenager, Julia Lawrence heard about the mistreatment of children with disabilities at Willowbrook State School in New York City. She had always wanted to make the world right, and knew this was not right. When she learned of the atrocities at Willowbrook, she was inspired to start a career in Special Education.

As a teacher for more than 30 years, Lawrence has been committed to ensuring all her students learn, grow, and are celebrated, which is one reason she has been selected as a Truckee Hometown SEARS-Sierra Sun Teacher of the Year finalist.

Julia Lawrence, originally from New Jersey, graduated from Jersey City State College with a degree in Special Education. She taught in New Jersey for two years before volunteering with the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. Lawrence worked as a volunteer for five years on a Navajo Reservation, teaching adolescents with severe handicaps and children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

After meeting her husband, Lawrence taught one year in the Bay Area before moving to Truckee in 1987. At Truckee Elementary, she taught Special Education for seven years, Kindergarten for 13 years, first grade for two years and worked as an Academic coach for three years.

This past year she went back to teaching first grade. After many years at Truckee Elementary, Lawrence is still excited to come to school every day.

“You can’t not love being at school,” said Lawrence, “this is the best job in the world.”

Lawrence enjoys working with her young students, watching them discover the richness of language, and the magic of learning to read. She loves reading to her students and teaching them to read.

By using songs, stories, imagination and visualization, Lawrence strives to meet each student where he or she is at and help them explore the joy and richness of language. Learning in her class is not sedentary; it is active.

“The kids should be active and engaged in what they are doing,” said Lawrence. “They need to hear, do, and explore.”

Parents praise Lawrence for the activity and energy she brings to the classroom each day.

“She’s passionate about teaching and it excites and motivates the kids and their families to have her enthusiasm and support,” wrote one parent nominator.

Parents appreciate Lawrence’s ability to differentiate instruction and meet all of her students’ needs. Lawrence supports her students with learning disabilities, celebrates English Learners advances, and continually challenges all students with new goals as they master curriculum.

“She goes above and beyond for her students,” said Principal Simpson.

Lawrence appreciates her nomination, but notes that all of the teachers she works with are outstanding.

“I work with an amazing staff of teachers,” said Lawrence. “They are my rock.”

Lawrence also attributes her success as a teacher to amazing parents, a supportive PTO and the Professional Learning Communities established in the school district.

“We have always been a professional learning community, now we are just cognizant of what we are doing,” said Lawrence. “No teacher can be strong without a team of teachers behind her.”

Lawrence’s years teaching and advocating for students make her a critical member of this teacher team and a person who has certainly helped to make the world right.

“Julia Lawrence is special. She puts in the extra time or goes the extra mile to help a student be successful, and encourages the classroom to celebrate each other’s successes, and she never complains.”


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jun 19, 2013 10:45AM Published Jun 19, 2013 08:51AM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.