Lauren Gaona’s students are often her best teachers. After teaching in Thailand, her Thai students taught her the true essence of being a teacher is about building trusting relationships and creating a space for everybody to bring their whole, authentic selves into the classroom.
As a teacher, it’s ok to admit what you do not know. I work to build organic relationships with students and make space for them to showcase their expertise in the classroom. This also helps position the classroom as a place where everybody has something to learn from one another.”
That experience also taught her that she wanted to enroll in graduate school to earn a master’s degree and teacher licensure. Gaona applied to the CU Boulder School of Education because the school’s values mirrored hers.
“I chose to attend CU Boulder for my master’s because the School of Education’s strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity in education aligned with my own vision for what teaching and learning should be,” she said. “I learned here that the pursuit of teaching for equity and social justice will require an enduring open-mindedness throughout my career. I am grateful to my professors in CU Teach for supporting me as a lifelong learner.”
Gaona’s mentor teachers recognized her for her commitments to promoting social justice and remaining inspired and engaged, despite constant change and the challenges of teaching both hybrid and virtually during an unusual school year that was disrupted by a global pandemic.
“My student teaching semester was an experience I’ll never forget,” she said “In the face of immense adversity during online learning and throughout the pandemic, my students taught me the true meaning of resilience and determination."
“Despite being physically separated online, we built relationships and created a sense of classroom community that reframed my view of what is possible with online education.”
Through it all, Gaona prioritized her students and recognized their unique potential. At the beginning of the semester, she wrote and mailed notes home to parents about the amazing things their children were doing in her classroom, a practice she continued throughout the semester. She also recognized it was OK to be herself and approach teaching and learning with humility.
“As a teacher, it’s ok to admit what you do not know,” she said. “I work to build organic relationships with students and make space for them to showcase their expertise in the classroom. This also helps position the classroom as a place where everybody has something to learn from one another.”
Throughout her time in the classroom — whether it be a CU Boulder or in a K-12 school or an international locale — she realized that students and communities have many unique things to teach teachers.
“Working with young people is what drives my passion for teaching — building relationships, learning from them, helping them grow, and providing a context where curiosity can flourish,” she said. “I am so excited to get to know my students and to work with them to create a science learning community that is accessible, relevant, and inclusive for all people.
“Part of my vision is to broaden what counts as participation in science, so that all students feel they belong as powerful doers of science — inside and outside of the classroom.”