Washington state’s 2014 Teacher of the Year could be a South Sound educator.
Laura Currie, a fifth-grade teacher at Centennial Elementary School in Olympia, is one of nine regional finalists being considered for the honor. The winner will be announced during a 1:30 p.m. ceremony Monday at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
“In my 38 years as an educator, I have worked with many teachers and can say without reservation that Laura Currie stands out as the best and most distinguished teacher kids could ever have,” said Centennial’s principal, Alice Drummer.
She said Currie is the “glue” that holds the 2010 U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School of Excellence together and noted that Currie has “the uncanny ability to change struggling learners into scholars.”
“She speaks very softly, but with command and authority,” Drummer wrote in a letter of support for Currie’s nomination. “In the midst of asserting herself as an authority figure in the classroom, she packs a great sense of humor. Kids love her.”
The Olympian interviewed Currie last week about being a finalist and her career.
Question: Tell us about your family.
Answer: I have a wonderful husband, Bob. He’s also in education. He was at Madison (Elementary School in Olympia) but has been at Centennial the last five years. He taught full time, but now he teaches math an hour a day.
We have two children. Our daughter is an English teacher in North Thurston Public Schools, and our son is a regional retail manager.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I’m a product of the Olympia School District. I’m an Olympia (High School) Bear. I graduated in 1962.
I also went to Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
Q: How did you get into teaching?
A: Truly, I never planned to be a teacher. It was never my vocation. I had planned to go to college, meet a rich husband and be a housewife.
Unfortunately, I kept getting pregnant and losing my babies.
One day, my dad said, “Kid, that guy upstairs is saying you need to finish your degree.”
One month after I got my diploma, my daughter was born.
I started teaching in the Hawaiian school district in 1967 or 1968.
Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?
A: The kids and the families — they’re absolutely wonderful. That’s what keeps you going every single day. It’s the faces that you see (at school).
Q: What was your reaction when you learned you were a regional finalist for state Teacher of the Year?
A: To be honest, my reaction was complete disbelief. I kept looking to see if they got the wrong address. ... You always think, “They got the wrong person.”
It was very exciting and very humbling to me.
Q: How has teaching changed over the years?
A: I think it’s gotten harder. The children seem to have more needs than they used to have, or maybe we are a little more aware of those needs. They come to school with a lot more problems than they once had, and the expectations of a teacher are much higher.
Q: Have you won other teaching awards?
A: Yes, I’ve been very lucky. I won the KING-5 television’s top teacher in the 1980s, and Olympia School District’s Teacher of the Year a few years ago. I also was one of about 20 or so teachers who were given educator awards by the Seattle Mariners.
I’ve also been in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers six times.
Q: What are some of the challenges that teachers face?
A: I think the continually changing curriculum is a challenge — not always a bad one, but it’s a challenge.
Using technology in the classroom, and balancing rules for using it, is a challenge.
Bullying is another one. I don’t know if there’s more than there used to be, but there’s a heightened awareness of it in schools.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I could not have done as well this year without the support of our superintendent, administrators and our school district.
For me, most important of all is the idea of being a teacher. We’re not in this alone and the parents absolutely have to be a partner with us. That’s the success: when parents and teachers work together.
Also, teachers can’t forget to laugh. We need laughter in the classroom. I take my job seriously, but I just will not take myself seriously.