Laura Strait is just one of four teachers around the country to be honored with the Fishman Prize for Superlative Teaching Practice (Published Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014)
Of all the lessons one would expect a 4th grade teacher to wish to share with the world, the benefits of stealing would hardly be one of them.
Laura Strait, however, swears by it.
"You take a little bit with you," Laura says, "and make your classroom better."
To be clear, Laura, a teacher at Oakland's Aspire Eres Academy, is not talking about taking 'things'. She is talking about the ideas, techniques, and methods she has taken from other teachers she has observed, and interrogated, in the past.
Laura Strait is a 4th grade teacher at Oakland's Aspire Eres Academy
"What books have you read," Laura says she asked them. "What resources have you tried? What professional development have you had?"
The borrowing appears to have paid off.
This year Laura is just one of four recipients nationwide of the Fishman Prize, awarded for excellence in teaching low-income students.
At Aspire Eres Academy, where close to 100% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, Laura has had amazing success.
More than 80% of Laura's 4th-grade students are considered advanced or proficient in math, more than 20 points higher than the city-wide average.
Testing has shown that more than 80% of her fourth graders are advanced or proficient in math, a number 20 points higher than the city-wide average.
Administrators also say it is not uncommon for students to advance two or three grade levels in reading after just one year in Laura's class.
"I think Laura really differentiates for every single student," says Emily Murphy, Eres Academy's principal. "I think she works really hard and she's very humble and reflective, so she's constantly getting better."
"You're always striving to get to the next step," Laura says. "Anything I can do to get better."
In Laura's case, "anything", meant leaving her native New England behind to take a chance on the job in Oakland.
Laura is one of just four recipients, nationwide, of the Fishman Prize for Superlative Teaching Practice
Laura graduated from Providence College in 2007, then taught in a large, public school outside of Boston. Emily, who was an administrator at that school, then left to lead Eres.
Laura soon decided to follow.
"I just remember being like 'I will do anything to work at this school,'" Laura says, "and if that means moving cross country, I will do it."
It was a risk that appears to have paid off. For Laura and her students.