Q&A: Lauren Thagard, algebra teacher, Student Council advisor, Mingus Union High School, Cottonwood
COTTONWOOD – From family pictures to senior pictures, engagement shoots to newborn babies, Lauren Thagard has photographed just about everything.
“It’s so fun to have a creative outlet and to get to capture important moments for people,” the Mingus Union algebra teacher and student council advisor said recently.
If she wasn’t an educator, Thagard said that she and her husband “are both pretty crafty.”
“I get the ideas and he has the skills,” Thagard said.
Thagard said it was in her final year of college when she realized she wanted to become a teacher.
“I coached basketball as a side job, and loved working with my girls and seeing their improvement and excitement throughout the season,” she said. “I made the decision to pursue teaching near the end of my senior year in college but it was too late to change my major, and needed to pursue an alternative pathway. My roommate was getting ready to graduate from the college of education and had applied to a program called Teach For America and been accepted.”
After talking with her friend and doing her own research, Thagard decided to also apply.
“In the fall of 2010 I found out I’d be moving to Memphis, Tennessee for the 2011-2012 SY and the rest is history,” she said.
Her principal at Mingus Union, Genie Gee said that Thagard is a “talented teacher [and] an amazing colleague.”
“She always tries to improve her classroom, our campus, and our culture with her participation, suggestions, and energy,” Gee said. “She genuinely cares about her role and this profession and it makes all the difference.”
According to Gee, Thagard’s “love shows up when she tries to explain an Algebra I concept in a multitude of ways to reach every one of her students.”
“Her love shows up in Link Crew when she gives her time to make sure our freshman students feel connected and protected,” Gee said. “When you really love something, your love can show up in many ways.”
Verde Valley Newspapers: Tell us about your teaching style.
Lauren Thagard: “My teaching style is really based around the idea that kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I can have the best classroom management or create the most engaging lesson, but if the kids aren’t invested in me and don’t feel that I’m invested in them personally then they won’t buy whatever I’m selling.”
VVN: Tell us something notable about your career.
Thagard: “I don’t have anything tremendously exciting. I was the Nucor Steel Teacher of the Year at my school in Memphis, but that was several years ago and was a local thing.
“For what it’s worth, I’m a Verde Valley native having grown up in Sedona and graduated from Red Rock High School. Even though I was a Scorpion at heart upon my arrival at Mingus, I’ve officially surpassed the amount of time I spent there and am now a full blown Marauder and proud of it.”
VVN: Do you have a favorite quote?
Thagard: “I love being a teacher, a math teacher specifically, because there is nothing more exciting than seeing a kid who has always believed they were bad at math find out that they are capable of success in a math classroom.
“Many kids that I get come in to my class almost prepared to fail because they’ve never been good at math and then as we work our way through the lessons and they find that one concepts wasn’t too bad, then they are more willing to give the next concept a try, and eventually they have realized they aren’t actually bad at math at all, they’ve just never found a way to connect with it.
“I always ask my kids to give me an opportunity to make math accessible to them before they shut me out and make a decision about how they feel about my class.”
VVN: Tell us something most people didn’t know about you.
Thagard: “I may be a math teacher now, but once upon a time I graduated with a degree in journalism. When I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I always figured I’d be an English teacher because of my journalism background and strong aversion to math.
“There was reason I got a degree in journalism, it didn’t require more than basic college math, which I worried tremendously about when I finally had to take it.
“However, that fear of math I had for so many years has become the biggest blessing in disguise because it has provided me a unique insight in to the fear that many kids bring with them to the math classroom and allows me to address those fears specifically.
“People usually become math teachers because they’re good at math, not the other way around, but this has ended up being exactly where I need and want to be.”
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42