Alumni Voices|

School of Education and Human Services

icon of a calendarMarch 11, 2023

icon of a pencilBy Emily Morris

Teaching Lifelong Lessons

Cultivating a caring community drives alum in her elementary classroom

two white arrows point down
white camera icon

Robert Hall

Legacy of Learning

Watching her mother’s late-night studying seamlessly segue into early-morning school sendoffs left an impact on a young Sarah Eidson-Laurence, SEHS ’00. Her mother’s pursuit of further education sent a ripple effect through her family, beginning with her mother’s education degree and going on to inspire Eidson-Laurence's studies, too.

“My mom went back to school to become a teacher while I was still in elementary school,” Eidson-Laurence says. “I was so aware as a child, and I saw her overcome so much. I was really proud of her.”

Eidson-Laurence’s decision to become a teacher fully solidified when she began studying at Oakland University, but the seeds were planted throughout her life. With deep roots in education, she leaned on a foundational community to guide her, including her mother, an uncle who served as an assistant superintendent, several aunts within the education system, and cousins who studied education. “Education has always been a conversation around the dinner table,” Eidson-Laurence says. “It’s just innate in us.”

Preservation followed inspiration as Eidson-Laurence, her mother, and her brother continued their education simultaneously, weaving their studies and support together. Her father also provided a solid support system, instilling a strong work ethic that helped shape her educational endeavors.

Eidson-Laurence’s commitment to studying education not only allowed her to chime in during more dinnertime conversations, but she also began to broaden her roots. Her courses encouraged her to connect with past teachers, emerging educators and established teachers throughout her immediate community and Oakland County as a whole.

“After taking a couple of education classes, I saw the resources available to me,” Eidson-Laurence says. “The School of Education and Human Resources truly fosters a foundational community of people, and I just felt at home.” Most of her professors were either former or current teachers in the community, giving more glimpses into her eventual career.

Community Connections

She eases open a familiar door as a rush of foundational memories wave over her. Coming full circle, when Eidson-Laurence was hired at the same elementary school she attended as a child — Simonds Elementary School — she sat down with the superintendent and watched as the rapport now weaved between childhood leadership and a professional connection.

Eidson-Laurence’s teaching career spans 24 years in Oakland County, 23 of which are at Simonds Elementary School. “You build trust and encourage involvement with families over time,” she says. Returning to Simonds Elementary School, she found her place within the community was ever-present: recognizing family names, collaborating with her former teachers, and mentoring emerging teachers.

“I always want to show the importance of [the] school community and that we can reach outside our walls and grow,” Eidson-Laurence says. “There’s different perspectives everywhere to learn from.”

With regular education conference attendance, Eidson-Laurence embodies lifelong learning. She often returns to OU to participate in education events, mentors OU education students in her classroom and strongly supports the Galileo Institute for Teacher Leadership, an organization that promotes the development of new programs, organizes school service projects and partners with school districts to conduct research.

Student Success

“Relationships are key to everything you do,” Eidson-Laurence says. Her efforts have been highlighted in the thank-yous of families for years. Oakland County also took notice in 2023 when she was chosen for Elementary Teacher of the Year.

A high school student in Eidson-Laurence’s school district wrote her nomination support letter saying, “Mrs. Laurence’s constant positivity kept her classroom feeling exciting, safe and comfortable … Whenever someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up, I answer that I want to grow up to be just like Mrs. Laurence," according to the Lamphere School District.

The Oakland County award is just the most recent of ample recognition that Eidson-Laurence has received. The most meaningful comes from the smallest of gestures.

After a recent slew of educational conferences, Eidson-Laurence returned to her classroom. But, instead of noticing mounting catch-up work following her absence, she spotted a student sneaking into her classroom, melting everything away for a moment with a hug. “She literally jumped into my arms, telling me how much she loves and misses me,” Eidson-Laurence says. “Those moments remind me that I’ve got this.”

Her career has also been sprinkled with an array of unique gifts, sprung to life from the imaginations of her elementary students. One student gave her several pages folded into a booklet, a short story narrating the life of Eidson-Laurence’s seemingly unnoticeable brown boots. “I have these brown boots; everyone has them, really,” she says. “But my student wrote a story about going to the store, trying on boots, and buying matching brown boots to be like Mrs. Laurence. It was the coolest thing ever.”

Her lessons often span her students’ adolescence and adulthood. Core moments, like thank-yous, hugs and recognition for simple brown boots, can become key in development. Later, these same students may nominate her for an award, return to visit their classroom, or even offer a wedding invite. Eidson-Laurence experiences this array of reconnections regularly. Regardless of their appreciation, there’s one element that Eidson-Laurence values the most.

“Those moments stick out,” she says. “It’s not something fancy or expensive. There’s no cost at all; it’s actually the ones that are heartfelt that mean the most. Those are what I remember.”

Merging Mentorship

While second-grader stories have the sweetest sentiment, Eidson-Laurence is also broadening her mentorship beyond her classroom. She emphasizes learning from OU student teachers and emerging Simonds Elementary teachers, and in turn, it’s clear her outlook has left an impression on countless emerging educators.

“We have 13 new teachers at Simonds Elementary,” Eidson-Laurence says. “My best friend and I are the ‘moms’ — that’s what the new teachers call us.”

Beginning with her family and continuing with formative faculty at OU, inspiration and mentorship have guided Eidson-Laurence to an impactful career. Even when Eidson-Laurence began at Simonds Elementary, she was greeted by several familiar faces, as well as some that were new to her, including Jennifer Vivian, her now best friend. “We were initially paired up to focus on social studies, and we just connected on a different level,” Eidson-Laurence says. “The connection started here with education, and she’s taught me a lot about being a teacher.”

Their bond eventually stemmed from a passion for education into a lifelong friendship, even taking a simultaneous maternity leave as they had their children only three days apart. While their bond is a highlight of Eidson-Laurence’s career, she emphasizes “being open to mentorship and growing relationships” whenever possible.

“I love having myself rooted here,” Eidson-Laurence says. “I know the people, the community, the families, and those relationships help me and help our school be its best.”

Share this story