English teacher recognized by district for classroom innovation

Lauxman receives 2015 Master Teacher Award for involvement at LHS, to move on to state-level competition


English teacher Keri Lauxman teaches an English 9 class.

By Macy Landes

English teacher Keri Lauxman’s classroom is different than most.

Room 212 is an eccentric mix of new technology used for blended learning as well as a relaxed atmosphere set by lots of natural light with plants lining the windowsill. Her students have the option of sitting in a raised metallic desk or at a circular table with their classmates. Roxy, Lauxman’s 6-year-old therapy dog, makes her class especially hard to forget.

The unique teaching environment Lauxman creates for her students is only one of the reasons she has been recognized as a superior teacher in the district.

Lauxman accepted the USD 497 Master Teacher Award at a staff meeting on Dec. 9. The recognition came with a check for $2,500 from Truity Credit Union as well as the chance to compete for the Master Teacher Award at the state-level.

When Superintendent Rick Doll announced Lauxman’s name, she was shocked, she said.

“The department called an impromptu department meeting…we all went down thinking that we needed to talk about assessments and things,” she said. “The superintendent and the whole crew of administrators and teachers and colleagues arrived, accompanied by my family, so at that point it was really surprising and shocking. I was just overwhelmed.”

Lauxman has taught at LHS for nine years, and was nominated for the recognition by students, staff and school administrators. The the final decision was made by the Doll.

“[We recommended Lauxman because of] her innovation in the classroom,” principal Matt Brungardt said. “She’s implemented blended learning — a district initiative — she’s on the AVID site team, she’s always doing professional development to show different types of AVID strategies to the staff.”

Her students said she deserved the recognition because of the learning environment she creates.

“She’s very kind and affectionate,” sophomore Brandon Lawrenz said. “She also does a great job of being inclusive, and she also teaches her students really a good way to learn as well.”

Lawrenz also said she deserved the award because she pushes her students to be the best they can be.

“Ms. Lauxman gave me the opportunity to challenge myself [to get] into the AVID program,” he said.

Not only is there a citywide recognition, but a statewide one, too. On Feb. 2, she submitted an application for the Kansas state Master Teacher Award, which is facilitated by Emporia State University. The recognition was established in 1954 by ESU’s Teacher’s College. It is annually-awarded to a small handful of applicants from the winners of each school district who choose to apply. Applicants must have won at their district-level and have at least five years of teaching experience.

The winners will be announced on April 6 at the ESU campus.

To apply for the state award, Lauxman wrote a 35-page paper and created an extended portfolio to exhibit her impact at LHS. Lauxman said putting together her application has given her a chance to look back on her time at Lawrence High.

“It’s quite an undertaking, but it’s been really a rewarding process seeing letters of recommendation from students and parents and colleagues,” she said. “The process of reflecting back on my career has been [an] award enough.”

Though Lauxman was on the receiving end of the award, she credits her co-workers for helping her develop as a teacher.

“I think there’s a long list of people who get us to where we are as teachers,” she said. “Certainly my department, the English department, as well as other colleagues here at Lawrence High, inspire us as teachers to do better every day and to collaborate and share ideas and grow in the profession. So I certainly give credit to professional colleagues.”

Lauxman said the culture at LHS has also inspired her teaching career.

“We have so many opportunities for students to connect with classes that they love, opportunities for teachers to teach what they love and work toward their strengths,” she said. “I’m just thankful to be a part of Lawrence High where we have that culture of acceptance and opportunity. It truly is always a great day to be a Lion.”