Lawrence High School teacher named Kansas Master Teacher

Lawrence High School English teacher Keri Lauxman

Not long ago, Lawrence High School English teacher Keri Lauxman made a courtroom her classroom.

It was a re-enactment of key chapters from the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — taking place in the historic Douglas County courtroom and complete with characters in costume — for students in her freshman literature classes who were reading the novel.

“I try every day to make the learning matter to the students,” she said. “I find when I do that they tend to engage a little bit more deeply and take away more, when they can see the relevance to their life.”

That trial is over, but the verdict is in on another matter: Lauxman has been named a Kansas Master Teacher.

LHS Principal Matt Brungardt said that part of what makes Lauxman an effective teacher is her ability to relate well with students.

“She has a personality, like a lot of teachers, where she can connect with a wide range of students,” he said.

Lauxman was named one of seven members of the 2016 class of Kansas Master Teachers on Wednesday. Lauxman said one of the ways she tries to connect with students is creating lessons that are in some way attached to their personal interests or goals.

Lawrence High School English teacher Keri Lauxman

The Kansas Master Teacher award is presented annually by Emporia State University “to teachers who have served the profession long and well and who also typify the outstanding qualities of earnest and conscientious teachers,” according to a news release. The Lawrence school district named Lauxman the Lawrence Master Teacher in December and nominated her for the statewide honor.

Lauxman is also known for the certified therapy dog, a golden retriever named Roxy, that she brings to school everyday. Lauxman said that Roxy is an important part of her classroom because she provides emotional support for students.

“I find that kids just really gravitate toward her when they’re having a tough day, or maybe they are a little less motivated to come to school,” she said. “They come in and she’s always there wagging her tail and happy to see them.”

Each recipient of the Kansas Master Teacher award receives a $1,000 professional development stipend as part of the award, provided by Bank of America. Emporia State established the awards in 1953, and the program has been supported by Bank of America since 1980.

Lauxman began teaching at LHS in 2007. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Washburn University, and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Kansas University.

In her time at LHS, Lauxman has also become known for her openness toward new teaching methods. She has incorporated two new initiatives — AVID and blended learning — into her classroom in recent years. The AVID program’s goal is to help a wider range of students succeed in advanced placement classes and prepare for college, and blended learning “blends” lecture-based instruction with online resources to help teachers create individualized lessons for students.

“Blended learning just really allows me to give kids more hands-on instruction, so I can deliver information in the way that they receive it best, and they can choose their own path and their own pace of learning,” Lauxman said.

Brungardt said that Lauxman’s initiative with both blended learning and AVID are examples of her innovation, hard work and drive.

“She’s willing to take new projects on,” he said. “…She just develops a great classroom environment where all students can learn.”

The 2016 Master Teachers will be honored on April 6 at Emporia State University.