I can’t wait to find out!
By Jeff Lamkins, Social Studies Teacher, Laraway School Individualized Program
In February 2018, I was new to Vermont and looking for a job similar to what I have done in the past, which was teaching high school and middle school. I came across an ad that seemed to be tailor-made for me. Shortly after applying for the Social Studies position at Laraway Youth and Family Services, I was lucky enough to hear back, and they asked me to come in for a visit to see the campus, and get to meet some students and staff. I was very excited and looking forward to coming in.
My first day at Laraway was quite memorable, as it was the day we were holding Laralympics! The students and staff piled into what seemed like a convoy of vans, and headed to a nearby snow-covered series of hills. Teams sporting different countries’ flags competed in a variety of events such as bobsledding, skiing, and other winter sports. I looked a little out of place wearing my long black leather coat, looking more like a city slicker than an outdoorsman. Regardless, all of the students and staff made me feel like a part of the family. I would be tempted to say that they went out of their way to make me feel welcome, but in fact they were all just being themselves.
“This is who they are,” I thought to myself. They are genuinely warm and loving people who bond together to help the students reach their full potential. Yup, this is the place I need to be!
Fast forward to the present day: I am approaching my first full year here at Laraway, and I can honestly say that this is the most rewarding job I have ever had. I am here to teach students, and I try to do that to the best of my ability, but I learn as much from them (maybe more) then I teach them. The students at Laraway have shown me how to overcome obstacles, pressing on toward their goals of building themselves through academic success, even though they have moments when that may be the last thing they want to do. But they do it anyway, and they do it well!
In the short year I have been here, I have seen tremendous growth in students. Some make unbelievable advances in their social skills and interactions with others. Some serve the local community in charitable work. Some have jobs out in the community, and some have moved on to public school settings using Laraway as the launching pad to the rest of their lives. But ALL, and I mean ALL of the students at Laraway are better today than they were yesterday, and tomorrow that will happen again.
They are strong, very strong, always moving forward toward their personal goals. And although they will have struggles, their struggles will not have them. There is power in that, real personal power. And that lesson that they have taught me is more valuable than anything I could ever teach them. How many schools can say that about their teenagers?
My grandfather once said to me, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your whole life.” I know what he means now. Thank you, Laraway. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being a member of your family. What wonderful discoveries will I see at this amazing place in my second year? I can’t wait to find out!