Meet STEAM Teacher: Laurel Blackmon

Let’s get to know some of our fabulous STEAM teachers starting with Laurel Blackmon.

Laurel was the first person to greet my family when we visited STEAM for the first time in January of 2019, and both of my kids adore her! This year Laurel is both a Coordinator on STEAM’s Leadership team, and STEAM’s PreK-1st Curriculum Organizer.

How did you first find out about The STEAM School?

LB: I think it randomly popped up on Facebook initially for me. I had been looking for a co-op or a meet-up for our family with no success-they were either too unstructured or religious or just philosophically misaligned with our educational priorities. STEAM found us, I suppose 🙂

How have you been involved with STEAM in the past, and what role(s) will you be filling this coming school year?

LB: I taught creative writing and K-1 last year. This year, I will teach PreK-1st grade math, PreK-1st grade literacy, and creative writing. I’ll also lead morning meetings with a lot of emphasis on building social skills, creating a positive learning community, and anti-bias work.

What is your favorite thing about teaching at STEAM?

LB: I love the kids! They are wonderful company, and I love connecting with them and learning with them. I also love that we can foster learning through play and facilitation and not be constrained by the expectations and traditions of school. For our family, it’s been a wonderful balance of intentional design and student-led experiences. We can be responsive to individual kids while also leading them toward goals that we have for them.

What is your background/experience with the topics you’ll be teaching?

LB: I’ve taught reading, math, and writing at most grade levels PreK-8th at some point as well as overseen instructional practices and written curriculum at those grade levels and disciplines. I lead staff development on Responsive Classroom through my consulting work with schools, so that’s an area of particular passion; morning meeting and its associated practices are wonderful for a community. As far as anti-bias work goes, that is my life’s work. Supporting little kids as they learn about the world, its diversity, and its inequity was the focus of my dissertation. That’s also the primary focus of my consulting work with schools. I’m so thankful that I get to do this directly with students as well as help teachers in school settings.

Any sneak peeks you can share about what learners in your class might be working on this coming semester?

LB: Lots of play! For the PreK-1st graders, we have mapped out the year and planned some centers that let them explore concepts in meaningful, age-appropriate, and fun ways. We also have ideas for projects that are grounded in real life (cooking, sewing, creating plays, etc). We have left quite a bit of space for the kids to lead, as well, and let the curriculum emerge a little. 

For the creative writing classes, we are leaning on Bravewriter for ideas, but also have left lots of room for student-initiated projects. Emily and I are interested in pursuing some activism work with the 4th-6th graders, and for the younger ones, perhaps some writing about art. We will see where they lead us!

Tell us a little about your personal interests/hobbies.

LB: I love to read novels and have indulged in that quite a bit this summer. I also love running, hiking, walking, cooking, and, in a less busy time in my life, I loved to make art and sew. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done that, though, unless you count crafting with kids.

I am active in social justice work, as well, which takes on several different forms. My work with schools is the primary avenue for this, but we also attend political events as a family and campaign when possible. I anticipate being more active this year in preparation for the 2020 election.

What is one goal you have for yourself and/or your students in this coming school year?

LB: Slowing down for deep learning, spending time lingering on ideas-for all of us. Since I come from a school teaching and administration background, the pressure to “cover” topics and curriculum is often present for me. This year, I want to let that go, focus on a simpler set of goals for the kids, and spend most of my time learning alongside them.