Lauren McDougall’s love of learning and the joy she experienced around people helped her family, friends and teaching colleagues transform a day of mourning.
Last Saturday it was Tim and Susie McDougall’s wish their 23-year-old daughter be remembered for a fulfilling life filled with a positive light that touched others.
Lauren, a Monticello High School Class of 2007 graduate, died unexpectedly Jan. 2. She was teaching in St. Cloud School District 742 when she passed away.
Earlier this week, her father, Tim, said it was uplifting to hear the positive comments and praise shared by Lauren’s teaching colleagues at her Jan. 5 funeral.
Lauren was a fourth-grade elementary school teacher at Lincoln Community School, a 350-student neighborhood elementary in St. Cloud that has a long and rich history of serving students in grades kindergarten through sixth. Her passion for teaching started while attending Monticello High School, culminating with an education degree from St. Cloud State University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2011.
“She decided to do something a little different with her student teaching at SCSU,” Tim McDougall said, referring to Lauren’s participation in the Urban Block program, a partnership between the SCSU’s School of Education and the Minneapolis Public Schools. Urban Block an inner-city program designed for elementary education teacher candidates.
During their senior year, teacher candidates take their methods courses in a classroom at Andersen Open School and participate in student teaching experiences in surrounding schools in Minneapolis, allowing teacher candidates to integrate theory and practice and apply what they learn in authentic classroom settings. Teacher candidates are immersed in diverse school communities and cultures, including Latino, Hmong, African-American, Native American, and Somali populations.
A number of the memorial cards left by those attending Lauren’s funeral service contained references to her participation in the Urban Block program, Tim said.
Lauren’s teachers in the Monticello School District remembered her as a positive and outgoing student who enjoyed school and the experiences it offered.
Wendy Suddard-Bangsund is a social worker at Little Mountain Elementary. She said Lauren was a leader at Little Mountain Elementary and was picked to be a peer mediator. “I remember her fondly as a gentle girl who was kind to everyone, with a great head on her shoulders and wisdom beyond her years,” she said.
Holly Herman was Lauren’s sophomore English teacher. “We teachers have a wonderful job because we get to spend time with other people’s children and when something terrible happens to these lovely souls, we suffer too,” she said. Herman remembers when Lauren was placed in her class and how they interacted.
“She was so much fun,” Herman said. “I would say something in class and she would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and say, ‘Are you sure about that, Ms. Herman?’ and then she would laugh.” Herman said Lauren loved being at school, which may be the reason she took up elementary education. “After she graduated, I would see her often at Target and she would tell me about her student teaching experience and get excited about the day that she would have her own class,” she said. “Knowing her patience and her love of learning and her creativity, I know she was and would be a most terrific teacher,” Herman added.
Julie Wolfsteller, Monticello High School business teacher, had Lauren and her brother Ryan, in class. She was saddened by the news of Lauren’s passing.
“It doesn’t matter how long of time has passed, even if sometimes after years we have to be reminded of a name and a year of graduation when we bump into a student, we remember student faces” Wolfsteller said. “Lauren and Ryan were both students who enjoyed learning and school. They were so eager to learn.”
Principal Christine Blauer said several Lincoln Community School staff mentioned that Lauren always had a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone.
“Just a few weeks ago, I told Lauren that I knew within seconds of her initial interview this summer that I wanted her to be a teacher at Lincoln, and I was so grateful she agreed to join us,” Blauer said. “She was a born teacher. Her expertise and skill exceeded her short time in the classroom.”
Every time Blauer walked by or visited Lauren’s classroom, Blauer said her students were actively engaged.
“Lauren was truly a ‘shining star,’ ” she said, adding one Lincoln parent had said her daughter came home every day excited about something new she had learned in Lauren’s class.
Keri Johnson, District 724’s new teacher instructional leader, said Lauren’s love of learning was infectious.
Blauer added: “Lauren made such a positive impact in such a very short time. We will miss her deeply.”
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