Lauran Rearic, First Grade Coordinator at Palm Beach Day Academy, is this month’s “Faculty Friday” spotlight. Mrs. Rearic is coming up on 20 years at PBDA, and we can’t imagine life on the Lower Campus without her smiling face.
Stay tuned in March for the next Faculty Friday spotlight!
Lauran Rearic, PBDA’s First Grade Coordinator
1. What is your role at PBDA, and how long have you worked here?
I am the First Grade Coordinator and have been teaching First Grade for the past four years. I have also taught Second Grade and Third Grade for 13 years. Which makes this my 18th year at PBDA!
2. Tell us about yourself? What brought you to Palm Beach?
I am originally from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area in northeastern Pennsylvania and grew up in a little town called Plains. I am the oldest of three so when it was time to look at college options, I knew I wanted to leave “the nest”/my hometown. I was planning to go out of state but fell in love with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is one of the top teaching schools in the state. Due to its reputation, school recruiters from all over the US attend IUP’s job fairs. It is very political and difficult to get a job out of college in my hometown so at 21, I decided to move. I was given various offers in Maryland, Virginia and Florida. The deciding factor for me was when the recruiter for the Palm Beach County School District asked me, “Why not teach in paradise with the sun and the palm trees?” I have resided in Florida ever since.
3. What were you doing prior to PBDA, and what initially drew you to the school? Why did you choose to teach at an independent school?
When I moved to Florida, I was unaware of the state’s testing emphasis on that four letter word, FCAT! I started working for the Palm Beach County School District, teaching Fifth Grade. In 2000, the state’s mandate required students to earn a certain score in math/reading in order to move to the next grade. I’ll never forget when one of my students asked if I would lose my job if he didn’t pass the test. What pressure for a 5th grader! My second year in the county, I was asked to move to Palm Beach Lakes Middle School, where I taught Sixth Grade math/geography. At the end of my second year, my principal asked me to be the Science Chair for Sixth Grade as the state was adding an additional strand to their testing: FCAT Science. Teaching to a test has never been my philosophy or how I feel students learn best. When a colleague at the school shared there was an opening at The Academy of the Palm Beaches (now Palm Beach Day Academy), I felt that I had to pursue it.
I lived out west and was unfamiliar with Flagler Drive, nor knew of “The School by the Water.” I am a “public school product” and never thought that I would be such an advocate and believer in the independent school system. Sallie Harris, the Head of School at the time, shared the importance of student exploration, creativity and project-based learning, where students are encouraged and led to follow their interest.
I knew I found the school when I saw the sense of family, nurturing teaching environment, familiar curriculum (the math and language arts curriculum were the ones I taught and supported in Pennsylvania), and welcome smiles of teachers who loved what they did.Lauran Rearic, First Grade Coordinator at PBDA
Teaching at an independent school provides teachers with the ability to teach best practices, enhance/differentiate instruction, and still incorporate “fun,” thematic-based lessons and student-driven activities. In my opinion, PBDA is the best place to teach.
4. What has been your favorite aspect of working with some of our youngest Bulldogs?
Their enthusiasm, energy, and excitement to learn. To be surrounded by students who genuinely love you, and greet you each day with a smile and a hug makes coming to work each day so enjoyable and rewarding.
5. In your opinion, why is First Grade “the best grade”? What are some of the skills that students are learning and developing at this age?
After teaching students from Second Grade to Sixth Grade, I think what makes First Grade “the best” is the amount of growth you witness from the day they start in September to when they end in June. Watching them grow as readers, writers, and mathematicians is remarkable. They start the year by reading and writing simple sentences and blossom into avid readers, reading for meaning, identifying text features, cause and effect relationships, and interacting with the text by marking questions, comments, and reactions. As writers, they compose multi-paged books with author’s craft, labeled illustrations; teaching books with a table of contents and glossary; and become series book writers! Mathematically, they build fact power, subtract multi-digit problems, and build on their foundational skills in telling time, geometry, and money. They also develop and grow socially and emotionally, becoming problem-solvers for themselves, and world learners as they gain insight about their country of study’s culture, land, and resources.
6. What does an average day in your classroom look like?
I feel that students thrive best in the classroom when they feel safe and loved, and a sense of family and community. We start off each day with our morning meeting which allows the students to share pieces of their night/evening/weekend and important moments that have happened or will happen in their lives. We conclude this time with movement and exercise to warm up their bodies and minds. Our day then consists of reading independently and with a partner during Reading Workshop, attending a special area class, playing with friends at recess, practicing math skills in whole-group and small-group lessons, socializing with friends at lunch, and composing books in Writers Workshop. We usually conclude the day with a word study where the students practice their phonics skills by participating in various hands-on activities.
7. Personally, I have very vivid and fond memories of my First Grade teacher and overall experience. What is it that you hope your students remember about you and your class in 20+ years?
My first grade teacher actually inspired me to become a teacher; I even went back to visit her when I was student teaching. She was very warm, kind, and calm. To this day, I can still remember her perfume, Winnie the Pooh colors bulletin board, and reciting the alphabet with sounds and gestures. I hope I have that same lasting effect on my students, and that they will always remember the love I had for them, my warmth and smile, and many of the hands-on thematic projects and special foods we made in the classroom!
Being in the field for 20 years now, it often surprises me – and warms my heart – when previous students want to friend me on Facebook or come back to visit me to say hello. My first year students are now married – some with kids or expecting kids – and I think that’s what makes being a teacher so rewarding. That even 5, 10, 15, 20 years later, students will still think of you, reach out to you, or give you a warm embrace.
8. What is your favorite PBDA tradition, and why?
Our Global Studies program – which concludes with Village Day – is one of my favorite PBDA traditions. I love seeing all of the students’ faces in grades 1-3 so excited to share what they have learned with their peers and families. Since 2002, this program has evolved into a year-long study where the students truly become vested and knowledgeable about another country’s culture and enthusiastically want to research, inquire about various facts, and truly immerse themselves in that country.
On Village Day, the classrooms are transformed to replicate their country and showcase the students’ work. The aroma of authentic food fills the air, and you can feel the energy and excitement as the students share what they’ve learned with their families and the other students on Lower Campus.
9. Has there been one standout or memorable moment with a PBDA student that has stuck with you?
There is a small piece of each student that will always hold a special place in my heart. Regarding “a moment,” I think most teachers would agree that moment happens every day when you see a student’s eyes light up during that “light bulb” moment when they truly understand a concept, or when they come to you beaming and eager to share something special with you. It’s magical!
10. When you’re not in the classroom, we can find you…
On a boat cruising the Intracoastal, biking through nature preserves, or spending time with my husband and daughter.
11. Where is your favorite travel destination and why?
I LOVE to travel. As a family, we enjoy traveling to more low-key destinations in the Northeast which brings me back to my roots, cooler temperature, and nature. We prefer not to repeat a location as there are so many places to visit, but some of our favorite regions are found throughout upstate New York and the mountains of North Carolina. Europe is still on my bucket list, and we’re hoping to get there this summer!
12. What is your favorite children’s book?
There are so many children’s books I hold dear to my heart but one of my favorites that makes me emotional every time I read it is Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. The story retells the author’s struggles with school, specifically with reading, and teaches students that if you work hard, you will succeed. Its message also teaches students to respect and embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
13. What is your guilty pleasure?
As a mother, it is often difficult to get away. When I’m able to, there’s nothing like spending the day at the spa!
14. Do you have any pet peeves?
I think one of my biggest pet peeves is the overuse of devices – by both children and adults – especially when families are out to dinner.