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Mar 31, 2022

A+ Local Educators

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

M.KAT Photography
If you ask anyone to name the person who had the biggest impact on their life, nine times out of 10, you’re going to hear about a teacher. And that’s because changing lives is the single most important unspoken part of a teacher’s job. On paper, they’re there to instruct and guide through curriculum, preparing […]

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If you ask anyone to name the person who had the biggest impact on their life, nine times out of 10, you’re going to hear about a teacher. And that’s because changing lives is the single most important unspoken part of a teacher’s job. On paper, they’re there to instruct and guide through curriculum, preparing young minds both for standardized tests and the real world that awaits on the other side of that diploma. In reality, they are mentors, sages and, in some cases, surrogate parents for young people at a time when they need it most.

Considering the last few years when we’ve seen teachers rise up against impossible odds to continue changing lives, we have all gained a deeper appreciation for the difference they make. In salute to their selflessness, we spotlight a few educators on the following pages.

Laurie Briggs
Heritage Academy
Subject/subjects you teach: Middle school and high school social studies, academic support center, middle school enrichment program
Years as a teacher: 24

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
My first job, at 16, was a camp counselor. I totally immersed myself into organizing activities for my campers. Then in eleventh grade, I was asked to be a tutor for a new student who had just arrived from Tehran, Iran. I fell in love with teaching my peer English and helping him adjust to his new country.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
My relationships with my students. My students are so dynamic, perplexing, and fun! They help me “be in the moment” and stay connected to young people and what makes them tick.
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
With middle schoolers, it is difficult to see career trajectory, however I have witnessed multiple students experience success at Heritage Academy. One of my students came to us with failing grades and a low self-esteem. With the help, support, and individual attention she received from all her teachers, this student is academically successful, on the track team, and has a ton of friends!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Working part-time at my community pool, strolling the beach, and thinking about fun things to do in my classroom!
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
Without a doubt, testing my students.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
I would like to improve my Spanish, which I learned in the Peace Corps. I speak Spanish without reservation but would like to expand my vocabulary and improve my grammar.


Darcie Patrick
College HHI (formerly Sea Pines Montessori Academy + Indianapolis Arsenal Technical High School)
Subject/subjects you teach: College Advising (former school principal and high school history teacher)
Years as a teacher: 20+

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
While an undergrad student at Elon University (formerly College), I traveled to Allende, Mexico during January’s Interterm to help build a school. During that month, we engaged with the children in the community, and it ignited a passion for education. I returned home and told my dad that I wanted to change my major from history to education. He said, “No. I am not going to pay more for you to attend school than you would make in a year.” So, I went on to earn my history degree from Elon and went back to IUPUI for graduate school in 1996.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Advocating for a student and guiding them to advocate for themselves. When they reach an academic goal, and I am the first or second person to hear the good news, it’s so wonderful!
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
I have worked with lots of amazing students over the years, but one young man stands out for sure. When he and I met, he was homeless and had been living on a friend’s sofa in Bluffton. I agreed to give him one hour of college advising as a favor to the family he was living with. Well, the next thing I knew, he was joining us for family dinners, and I was personally driving him to college tours. A dear friend who is an attorney helped us, and the student was able to receive an emancipation. As a straight-A, multi-sport athlete who worked over 20 hours per week as a busboy, I was committed to help him reach his goal. Today, he is in his senior year as a nursing student at University of South Carolina, Columbia where he was able to attend on a full scholarship.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Drink coffee. Seriously, I love catching up with a friend over coffee. Currently, I am in the middle of the Hardy Boys series with my buddy Fisher Baroni. Solving a mystery with a good cup of coffee is hard to beat.
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
Hands down, my least favorite part of being a teacher and school principal was managing challenging parents.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
I am really focusing on learning about alternative college pathways. I do not believe college is “one-size-fits-all,” and I am passionate about helping each student find their right fit school based on their social, emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and financial needs. Not all paths lead to a conventional four-year college.


Laura Campbell
Hilton Head Preparatory School
Subject/subjects you teach: Computer Science (middle school and high school)
Years as a teacher: Fifth year

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
I think I always knew really. While working in the computer science field for almost 20 years as a software developer, I did a lot of training both with peers and end users, where I helped co-workers and end-users more effectively complete their work. I recognized early in my career the importance of continual learning and growth. In the rapidly changing field of computer science, embracing a “life-long learner” mentality was critical to success. Then, of course, throw in my love of working with kids. And there you have it; teaching computer science is the perfect opportunity to combine my two loves!
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
My favorite part of being a teacher is the challenge it gives me to be the best version of myself every day for my students.
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
While teaching a middle school class on web design, one student who had since moved onto high school, stopped by my room to thank me. I asked why, and the student response was something like he was not the easiest student to work with in class but that I had expected so much from him and stayed on him to meet those expectations, and that really prepared him to be successful in high school.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love my family and all sports! I spend my spare time with my husband and our four children. Most of that time includes playing or watching sports of some kind or another.
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
The exhaustion that is the result of teaching and preparing to teach is real.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
There are too many things to list. I am constantly learning new things, and there is never enough time for learning.


Kefrin Woodham
John Paul II Catholic School
Subject/subjects you teach: Pre-Ap Visual Art, AP 2-D Art + Design, AP Drawing, AP Art History
Years as a teacher: 11

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
I had an opportunity when the high school art teacher at the school where my children were newly enrolled left for maternity leave and her long term substitute had to back out. It was an unexpected moment where I was placed in the right moment and time to be offered this temporary position that later became a permanent one. While the first few weeks seemed like an eternity of attempts and failures, I quickly realized it was never about teaching art. It was, and still is, about connecting to students that are at such a vulnerable time in their lives. Navigating the narrow path of high school can be challenging, and walking alongside them, listening to them, encouraging them, and sometimes holding them accountable is what I enjoy most. Art is just the vehicle to connect us.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
It’s important to me to deconstruct the idea of “being good at art.” There’s really no such thing as being good or bad at creating things. It’s my job to help students hone the skills they enjoy as they identify a topic or inquiry that they’re curious about exploring. Dare I say, it’s a very scientific approach for a creative mindset but that’s what I love about teaching art. Instead of teaching students to be “good at art,” I want to teach them to be curious, embrace processes, grow from failure and never be driven by the final product. Those are lessons that transcend art and teach important life skills that all of us have to call upon at some point.
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
I’m very fortunate to have taught some of the most quality people, raised by incredible parents, in my tenure as a teacher. I work on a barter system of mutual respect and find that students will put in tremendous effort once they realize they are worth the work (not always because you require it or it has a grade associated with it). Yes, there are students that I know have found their footing in the classes I teach, but I know that the impact I’ve made is just a link in a long chain. Their parents, other teachers that came before me, their peers … all these contributors helped create that moment. Sometimes, I’m just the lucky one who gets to see the lightbulb turn on as they map out the next chapter towards college, career, and life.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The idea of “spare time” is a little unfamiliar to me, but I can always carve out moments for joy. My students will laugh (and my own children will shudder) at this answer. I love helping my husband take care of our mini homestead, complete with a flower and veggie garden. But perhaps, my biggest joy is tending to our six chickens, named after the characters in Little Women. Both these pastimes complement my passion for cooking plant-based meals (although we’re a little heavy on eggs for a true plant-based diet). I see opportunity for creativity in everything from flowers to fauna, but especially food!
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
Since the upheaval that COVID brought upon all of us, I’ve seen students and teachers begin to climb out of holes of varying depths. Having to maintain the rigor that not only an AP class requires but that, ultimately, life requires becomes complicated when I realize I’m adding the one last thing that tips their emotional scale. Loving the students enough to hold them accountable to their academic and extracurricular commitments while balancing their mental health has been a huge challenge for me. I know that if I don’t teach them how to manage life and work, I’m being complacent in helping them become their best selves. My job is to equip our students with the skill set to be successful in all that they do, even when life seems impossible. I’m fortunate in that I’m able to include faith as a powerful tool in that equation and find infinite hope and peace in the notion that none of us are facing this life alone.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
Technology seems to advance at a rate that makes my head swim. I encourage students to try all sorts of new materials, processes and ideas, but in the end, I sometimes learn alongside them. I choose a medium every summer that I want to become more proficient in and introduce it to my students and colleagues in the fall. Last summer it was (almost) mastering our Glow Forge laser cutter, and this summer I’ve chosen to learn more about different firing techniques for ceramics. I’m typically a 2-D artist, but I want to challenge myself with being more diverse in my craft. None of this “old dog/new tricks” mindset for me … after all, our students deserve innovation!

Lindsay Binkley
Red Cedar Elementary School
Subject/subjects you teach: Kindergarten
Years as a teacher: 18

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
My parents were both in education, so it was a part of my life from the beginning. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
My students. I love being able to help them grow and learn and see how excited they get when they experience something new. The hugs, notes, and “I love you’s” are what get me through the hardest days.
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
For me, I know I have made a difference when my former students come back to visit me and want to share with me what they are doing now. I had one of my former students ask to come and read to my class years later. She talked to them about what high school was like and how important it was to work hard in school as they continue to get older. It was such a special day!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love spending time with my family and going to the beach or pool.
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
Never having enough time. Teaching is more than a full-time job; it’s a life. There is always something to be done, someone who needs your focus, a project you want to do, assessments to complete, plans that need to be prepared, parents to communicate with … and it doesn’t stop when the bell rings at the end of the day. It’s hard to be pulled in so many directions and so often feel like you just don’t have enough time to do it all to the standard you hold for yourself.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
Technology. When COVID hit schools and we went virtual, we had to learn a whole new way of teaching—and fast! During that time, we were introduced to many new programs and apps available to use in the classroom to present information and engage students in new and different ways. Although I feel very comfortable with technology and can learn quickly, I never felt like there was enough time to dig into all that is available.

Tara Anderson
St. Francis Catholic School
Subject/subjects you teach: Kindergarten
Years as a teacher: A lot! (13+ years)

When did you know you were meant to be an educator?
My first day as a pre-K teacher at St. Francis, I realized the honor and responsibility I had been entrusted with. The next day, I drove to work smiling and thought, wow, how lucky am I that I am excited to go to work?
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
The kids! Guiding them to know Jesus, grow, learn and discover new things. Being a part of that is indescribably wonderful.
Describe a moment with a former student when you knew you had made a difference in their lives, in their career trajectory.
As an early childhood teacher, I am continuously involved in teaching children to read. At the kindergarten level, when the lightbulb goes on and that smile stretches across a five- or six-year-old’s face, it is priceless. This just happened with one of my students yesterday, and my heart melted.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love being with my family. I have a sweet (wild) son who is three and an amazingly supportive husband. We spend time together at church, on the boat, at our son’s activities, and exploring our island together.
What is your least favorite part of being an educator?
Some days I need three or four of me! Thank goodness for my wonderful assistant Mrs. MacDonald and classroom volunteer Mrs. Gloven. They are a godsend.
What do you wish you had more time to learn about?
Gardening. I love beautiful flowers and local plants! Our class is starting a garden as part of our science unit, “Living Things,” and I’m super excited to learn along with them!

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