Alumna Lauren Schoellhorn’s passion for teaching impacts students at Eureka High School
From an early age, it was clear that Lauren Schoellhorn was destined to become an educator.
“My family’s always joked that I was going to be a teacher,” she said with a laugh. “I would set up classes for my younger brother – teach him to read. I always wanted to play school. It was my favorite thing.”
In May, the Rockwood School District named Schoellhorn, a social studies teacher at Eureka High School, its 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year. After winning the district-level award, she became one of 35 Regional Teachers of the Year. In September, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that she was one of seven finalists for the 2022 Missouri Teacher of the Year.
“Lauren is the absolute best,” said Eureka High Principal Corey Sink in a press release. “She is certainly most deserving, and I couldn’t be more proud of her success and this accomplishment both personally and as the principal of EHS. Her work as an educator is about loving and caring about kids.”
Fellow UMSL graduate James Young went on to win the statewide prize, but Schoellhorn was thankful to be a finalist. She said it was especially gratifying after the previous school year, during which she faced personal and professional challenges.
Schoellhorn was adjusting to teaching online during the COVID-19 pandemic and helping her own children learn remotely when her mother passed away. At the time, it was hard to imagine being in the running for Missouri Teacher of the Year.
“I never thought I’d be here,” she said. “It’s incredibly humbling. It’s a huge, tremendous honor, and I’m very grateful for all of it. It’s still a shock.”
Although Schoellhorn was always interested in education, one person in particular inspired her to pursue it as a career. Judith Little, the longtime social studies teacher at Frankfort Community High School in West Frankfort, Illinois, encouraged Schoellhorn’s interest in history and helped her discover her strengths as a student.
“She made it a story,” Schoellhorn said. “It wasn’t just all these facts to memorize. She made it a narrative. She wove all these interesting things into it like art history, which I teach now, world history and geography. All these things that interact together, she just did an incredible job of bringing it to life for me.”
It was everything she wanted to be as an educator.
After graduating high school, Schoellhorn attended John A. Logan College to play on the women’s golf team and complete some general education courses before transferring to UMSL in 2003.
She enrolled in the College of Education and starred on the women’s golf team, eventually earning induction into the UMSL Sports Hall of Fame. It was a lot to juggle, but faculty members such as Teaching Professor Peter Acsay and Professor Steven Rowan were incredibly supportive.
The College of Education also provided opportunities to engage with communities throughout the St. Louis region, which were essential to Schoellhorn’s development as a teacher.
“My education professors were very good about the realities of this job and what it means and what it looks like,” Schoellhorn said. “I had these wonderful field experiences. I was in Ferguson-Florissant doing some observations, so I feel like I got a really diverse experience. I wasn’t just looking at one group of kids or one demographic of kids. I got to really look at the challenges faced by all different groups of kids, and that’s one of the things I’m most grateful for.”
In addition to observations in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Schoellhorn completed her student teaching practicum at Rockwood Summit High School. She knew then that she wanted to come back to the Rockwood School District eventually.
The opportunity to do so came in 2009 when a social studies position opened at Eureka High School. Since then, Schoellhorn has taught AP world history, AP art history and psychology and also coached the girls’ and boys’ golf teams and the speech and debate team.
The district’s high standards for teachers and Eureka’s sense of community appealed to Schoellhorn. She’s also felt supported when trying new things in the classroom. It’s something she tries to extend to her students.
She believes students who feel comfortable and supported in the classroom are less stressed and more open to learning. Her students also learn life lessons in addition to the social studies curriculum.
“I’m trying to help these kids be the humans that they’re going to be,” Schoellhorn said. “In my classroom, we focus a lot on mental health and how things can transfer to the real world. If I’m teaching a lesson, I may be having them write a cover letter as if they were applying for a job because then my kids get to see what a cover letter looks like. Everything is relevant.”
For Schoellhorn, seeing her students grow as people is easily the best part of teaching.
“The most rewarding part is seeing them figure out themselves – for them to have that moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, I get this, I understand,’” she said. “I hear from them years later. An art history student who’s an accountant is touring Rome, and he’s sending me pictures of the Vatican. They take me with them when they travel. That’s the best part – that what they got from my classroom has impacted them outside of it some way. It may take years for me to really see my impact on a student, but it’s worth it.”
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