By Gabe Licht
Delano Public Schools
DELANO, MN The teachers of Delano Public Schools have spoken, and have chosen Delano High School language arts teacher Joe Lawrence as the Delano Public Schools 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Lawrence’s philosophy is to embrace teaching as an art. He considers himself and many of his colleagues, artists.
“Becoming an excellent teacher takes thousands of hours of practice and an artistic ability to balance the overwhelming workload in order to connect with as many young people as possible,” Lawrence said.
He believes connecting with students, teachers, and parents in order to collaborate and learn from each other is the key to great teaching.
Lawrence feels the current education system is working too hard to create future workers and, instead, must focus on creating well-rounded individuals.
“As a high school teacher, my goal is not to create workers,” Lawrence said. “My goal is to create explorers, creators, and thinkers. I want kids to question. I want the actors of the future to understand science, instead of acting as mouthpieces for those who recruit them to speak about an agenda. I want doctors and lawyers to have a deep understanding of literature, music and art, so they know there are real people within the problems they work to solve. I want future politicians to understand science, climate change, physics, biology, and chemistry so that their decisions come from a foundation of knowledge, rather than a foundation of bankers or special interest groups.”
Lawrence’s other passions include serving as the DHS Student Council advisor and as a volunteer Guitar Club advisor. He began the Guitar Club for students with a passion for music to hone their craft and learn to create music together. He has taught them how to raise funds, and has found many venues where they can perform.
Lawrence believes strongly in collaboration in the classroom, as well as in extracurricular activities. He treats all of his students as budding artists. Students sing, draw, argue, create, and write positive things on the “white board of positivity,” a message board that resides in his classroom.
Lawrence believes each teacher in the Delano school district comes together to make magic. Each teacher brings his or her own unique qualities, talents, and energy to the students they teach. He feels he succeeds because of his peers.
Lawrence received his bachelor of arts degree in theatre from Baldwin-Wallace University, Ohio. He went on to earn his teaching license in English education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2007, and also his master of education in 2013.
Lawrence has taught in Delano since 2011. Along with Language Arts 9, Lawrence teaches Exploring Language Arts 9/10, Theatre Arts, Sports Literature, Mythology and Public Speaking.
He is on the Student Contact Committee, which assists students who are struggling academically, behaviorally, socially, or personally. Lawrence is also a member of the Site-Based Leadership Committee, a group designed to review professional development opportunities.
In addition, he is a member of the School Improvement Plan Committee and participated on the STEM to STEAM Committee, which determined methods to incorporate the arts into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum.
In recognition of his contributions to education, Lawrence received the Leadership in Educational Excellence Award (LEEA) in 2014 from Resource Training and Solutions in St. Cloud.
In pursuit of his theatrical aspirations, Lawrence is an artistic director, board member and an actor for 4 Community Theatre, and recently directed “Shrek the Musical.” He is also a member of the Second Act Committee to restore Delano Middle School’s auditorium.
Lawrence lives in Delano with his wife, Solveig, and their two children, Clara (8) and Everett (5).