What began as an ordinary day for Laura Erickson and her second- graders at Chelsea Heights Elementary School was interrupted by a knock on the door Nov. 9 from a television crew carrying a shiny plaque bearing her name.
“You have been awarded WCCO’s Excellent Educator,” the reporter told a surprised Erickson, handing her the giant frame.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” Erickson said. The award is based on nominations from the public.
Retired teacher Cherie Frarseth, who volunteers in Erickson’s classroom, nominated her for this honor. “She is very caring, very innovative,” Frarseth said in her endorsement.
One of Erickson’s innovative solutions for calming down her energetic 7-year olds is MeMoves, a program that helps focus young minds and bodies by teaching self- regulation through breathing, music and movement and helps the children reign in all that post-lunch energy.
“It’s just a disc that we watch on the screen and do the movements,” Erickson explained. “It takes about five minutes and gets them ready for the afternoon.” Erickson also reads to the children from Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, a book that offers ways to stay calm and cultivate inner strength to deal with life’s challenges.
Another out-of-the-box method Erickson is trying is alternative seating. There is a standing station, floor cushions or regular desks for students to choose from. Each month, the students indicate their choice of stations.
“Some of them really know what works for them and some like to try a new choice each month,” Erickson said. “It helps them, and it’s fun. They really like the butterfly chair and someone gets that once a day.”
Erickson eased into alternative seating last year and the children responded well. The school’s administration has been very supportive of her ventures, although perhaps a bit weary when Erickson began chopping off the legs of tables. “But really, I have had a lot of support,” she laughed. “It works and
the children love it.”
Erickson is a St. Paul native who
currently resides in the Como neighborhood with her husband, Eric Erickson, a teacher at Como Park Senior High School, and two daughters who attend district schools. “We feel that it’s a very important thing, to be within our
community,” she said.
After 24 years in the district,
Erickson is as passionate as ever about her community and the public schools she has taught in and has sent her own children to.
“My youngest daughter was here at Chelsea when I started, so it was perfect,” she said. “I’ve spent my whole career in St. Paul. This will be my fourth year at Chelsea, and I hope to stay right here for the remainder of it.”