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“Teaching is more than lessons and test scores – to truly teach is to promote change and growth, and to fearlessly model the change and growth within yourself. It is to teach students to never, never, never quit,” says Laura Woolfolk.
Being an English teacher, debate coach, psychology instructor, and involved community member, Woolfolk’s teaching changes and adapts as technology evolves and makes experiences available for her students. Interviewing a Kansan living in Paris after the November shootings, Woolfolk encouraged students to practice the Socratic method before the Skype interview, so the students could benefit from active listening. In the end, the discussion with the Paris contact went from a scheduled 30 minutes to 90 minutes of original, thoughtful questions, ranging from the mood of Parisians to the fate of Syrian refugees.
Woolfolk attended Abilene Christian University and graduated from Newman University with a bachelor’s in education in 1994. In 2005, she earned an ESL certification from Fort Hays State University, and in 2012, completed a master’s in education leadership from Kansas State University. She has taught in Garden City, Dodge City, and at Dodge City Community College.
Whether it’s using meditation to interest students as they study the Transcendentalists in American literature or dancing to “Thriller” as a brain break, Woolfolk uses any method available to engage and challenge students to meet – and exceed – expectations.
Providing students with the ability to see the potential in themselves is key. A former student had dreams of college but no idea how to achieve that goal as a first-generation American with parents working in the local beef-packing plant. Woolfolk encouraged her to apply to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS). She did, and in April 2002, she was notified she was the first student from Dodge City and the only one from Southwest Kansas to be in the 2002 GMSP class of 1000 students across the U.S.
Woolfolk is passionate, whether it is campaigning for a school bond measure or school board member, leading students and their families on international trips, hosting foreign exchange students, volunteering to organize 5Ks, or teaching others how to be good digital citizens.
“Everything she does, she does with enormous passion, and it is contagious,” a former student states. It also may help that Woolfolk is described as “effortlessly hilarious.”
Echoing many supporters who share the sentiment of wanting to emulate her, one colleague summed it up best, “Laura is all things good. In life. In community. In school. In person.”