iList continues the theme of education and educators for Teacher Appreciation Month. This week we’re chatting with Laurie Edminster from Murray High School. She’s an English teacher involved with countless extra-curricular activities. This mother of three says The Grapes of Wrath might be her all-time favorite book. iMeet a teacher who goes above and beyond her job description for her students.

Welcome to iMeet, Laurie. We’re glad to feature you as part of Teacher Appreciation Month. Tell us about yourself...

I live in Murray and work at Murray High School, where I have taught English for the past 18 years. We moved to Murray in 2000 from Clemson, South Carolina, where I also taught high school English. I have taught in Waco, Texas, as well.

I graduated from high school in SouthCarolina in 1984 and attended Clemson for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. My parents both worked in education  - my father was a college basketball coach and high school administrator. My mother was a district office assistant and transportation secretary.

Even as a young girl, I knew that I wanted to teach – when I was 5 years old, I would line my stuffed animals and dolls up in rows on the floor, and pretend to teach. I jokingly tell my students that I have been teaching for 47 years!

Seriously, though, in my 29 years of teaching, I have taught every grade from 7th-12th, the subjects including English I-IV, drama, creative writing, reading and study skills, Southern literature, speech, composition, AP Literature, and AP Language. I also teach dual credit courses through Murray State University, EDU 104 and EDP 260, while occasionally teaching English Education students on campus at MSU.

Tell us about your family...

I have been married to my husband Warren for soon-to-be 27 years. We have three daughters: Ashlee (22), Lauren (20), and Hannah (17). Our shelter kitty Misty has been with us for 13 years. Ashlee and Lauren both attend Murray State and are pursuing teaching degrees, while Hannah is a senior at Murray High School. She will also be attending MSU in the fall. Hannah is interested in becoming either a special education teacher or a youth counselor.

We hear you have a daughter who is getting married soon...are you in the midst of crazy wedding planning?

Yes, my oldest child is getting married in July, so we are in full blown wedding planning mode.  All of the prom planning that I have done through the years is coming in handy! Ashlee is a dynamo in organizing.

Tell us about your position at Murray High School...

I currently teach English 2, AP Language and Composition, English 3 Honors, and EDU 104/EDP 260. For the past 15 years (I think), I have been the student council sponsor at Murray High, and for the past 6 years, I have been the prom coordinator. 

I also teach an after-school ACT reading workshop on Mondays from January to March. I sponsor the Dawg Pound, Murray High’s pep club. This is my last year working with student council, but I intend to help out when needed. 

Being involved and investing in student life outside the classroom is important to me. I’m sure I have embarrassed my students screaming for them at a ballgame or band competition, and I am certain that my pep rally antics have mortified my own children. Some of my favorite moments as a teacher involve going to school with my daughters. I won’t know what to do next year without a child in high school with me!

You teach every summer with the Commonwealth Honors Academy. Tell us about that and why you do it...

I spend four weeks of my summer working with Murray State’s Commonwealth Honors Academy, a program for rising high school seniors. I love everything about this program; I get to teach in a genuine living, learning community, designing my own curriculum. 

The faculty and students interact in every aspect of “college life.”  We eat together, live in the dorm together, and attend extracurricular events together. Students take two courses, an elective course and an interdisciplinary humanities/fine arts course.

These classes are founded on a traditional subject but apply the content in a creative way. For example, I am teaching a slam poetry course this summer and I can’t wait to get started. I have worked with the program for 16 years. Each year is different, one of the many reasons why I love it so much. We have students from all over the country attend the academy.

May is Teacher Appreciation Month. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life...

Each of my English teachers inspired me to read and write and learn, but my senior AP English Literature teacher, Wanda Fowler, had a rock-star quality like no other. She orchestrated discussions that were masterful, pulling in the timid students and reigning in the boisterous ones.  More importantly, she took us on adventures through reading and writing about literature. She treated us like scholars. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I wanted to do for others what she had done for us.

What's the most important reason that you became a teacher?

The most important reason that I became and remain a teacher is that I believe in the hope and energy of young people. Every generation needs their passion and idealism. They are the world-changers, the peace-seekers, the hope-carriers, and they need someone to teach them, to build them up, to believe in them, and to set them on their journey into the future.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My free time is spent with my family and friends, singing praise and worship songs, cheering on students at ballgames, reading, and watching Netflix!

This will be a tough one...favorite book of all-time and why?

As an English teacher, having to pick one book as a favorite is next to impossible, but I’ll give it a go. The Grapes of Wrath is poetry in prose form. The form and structure of the novel are genius, alternating plot and intercalary chapters, character development so realistic and dialogue as moving as scripture. The love, the tragedy, the sacrifices, the hope – it is life bound in a timeless cover on pages that are new each time I read it.

Any plans to retire any time soon? 

LOL – no.  While I have been teaching for 29 years, I have only been working in Kentucky for 18 years, so I have 9 years to go, but I wouldn’t be ready to retire yet even if I could. I still love teaching, and I simply cannot imagine doing anything else for a living.

Thanks for being our iMeet this week, Laurie. We want you to know how much we appreciate you and all teachers.