If her name is familiar, you may already be aware that Samantha Reuning is not new to Laurel Springs. Before becoming an LSS teacher, Samantha was an LSS student! Learn how this alumna-turned-teacher carries on the Laurel Springs legacy of highly supportive educators.
Doing What Comes Naturally
Samantha Reuning spent her last year of high school as a Laurel Springs student. She’s gushed about her dedicated teachers and how “My time at Laurel Springs had a profound influence on me and helped to shape me into the person I am today.” So it’s only natural that Samantha is a Laurel Springs teacher today. However, her desire to become a teacher started well before high school.
“I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember…it is a role that comes naturally to me. I have a deep love for learning and I am passionate about cultivating this same love…amongst my students. There is nothing more rewarding than equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve success and helping them to realize their full potential.”
How does she do this, you ask? As a grade 9-12 Social Studies teacher, she makes things personal. Some of the subjects she covers includes World History, Sociology, Philosophy and Ethics, World Cultures, History of the Holocaust, and Anthropology. Many of these topics touch on studying human behavior and relationships—something all humans should be able to relate to. So, Samantha personalizes these relatable aspects to her students in order to drive the lessons home.
“Over the years, I have found a few strategies that seem to work in order to keep students engaged. I try to create a personal connection with each of my students. Once I know more about them I am able to highlight aspects of the lesson or material that I feel connects to their lives in some way. When the material speaks to students, it is easier for them to take ownership of their learning and to stay engaged!”
On the Road to Success
One of the perks of online school—for both students and teachers—is the ability to learn and teach from anywhere. Samantha lives in South Africa. Her students can be anywhere across the globe. It’s also convenient for when your family is always on the go, for whatever reason.
“My family really enjoys traveling, locally and internationally, when it’s possible, and it is such a privilege to be able to work and travel at the same time. I really like getting to share the different destinations I visit with my students, and I absolutely love that I get to live in South Africa and teach students who live all over the world. I learn something new every day, whether it’s about culture, language, sport, or politics, my students are always teaching me something. I have taught students living in parts of the world I could only have imagined.”
While some of the world’s population was already familiar with online school, the rest of the world had to quickly learn the ins and outs during lockdowns this past year. For Samantha, she started distance learning as a student and now gets to see the other side of the process as an educator. “For better or worse, there simply has never been a better time to be an online teacher. The possibilities are endless, and I get really excited about the prospect of being able to help families whose lives have changed drastically as a result of COVID-19. Laurel Springs has helped to make online education more accessible to people all over the world, and the school’s global community just keeps on growing.”
Support, Strengthen, Repeat
Samantha was helping students and families before COVID, and she continues to connect with those in her virtual classroom. “In online education, communication is key, and I always try to be available to meet students in my virtual office if they need to discuss work or activities. Especially at the beginning of a course when students are still getting used to the material or adjusting to learning online, there can be a lot of uncertainty and so one of the ways that I support them is to keep regular office hours and to be available to help students when they need it. There is nothing more helpful than a live conversation when a student is feeling overwhelmed. Regular check-ins are also really helpful.”
For Samantha, education goes beyond teaching lessons in Social Studies. Her instruction also includes some of the most fundamental skills. “I always try to assist my students with time management by encouraging them to plan ahead. This helps students to focus and to avoid distractions and encourages them to take ownership of their learning. Calendar apps and task-keeping apps or to-do lists are really helpful here. Finally, I always tell students: don’t procrastinate, set measurable goals and try to have fun!”
One lesson she hopes her students walk away with is summed up in a quote from Marie Curie, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” It’s a life lesson everyone should remember, especially in a time when all kinds of information is readily available at our fingertips. “I want my students to educate themselves, think critically, be equipped with a more meaningful understanding of the world they live in, and be able to make decisions for themselves.”
One way she strengthens students’ critical thinking is through Philosophy. “I love Philosophy, it is my favorite class because…[it’s] arguably more relevant today than ever before. It is also one of the most engaging courses I teach because it encourages students to think critically about the world and it provides them with the tools to become good thinkers, which is perhaps one of the most important skills there is. Finally, it’s…more than just knowledge, it’s an understanding of how the world works…”
Students aren’t the only ones being supported. When it comes to transitioning to online school, Samantha has been there, done that, and continues to learn as she goes. “As a parent, I have experienced some of the anxiety that can come with the transition from traditional school to online education, especially as many schools try to cope with the pandemic. But with thirty years of experience in distance learning, Laurel Springs understands the challenges that families face, and the curriculum is designed in such a way to help students succeed. Each student and educational experience is unique, take the time to figure out what works for you and your family. Reach out if you need help, teachers are there to support you.”
Take it from someone who’s been with Laurel Springs on both sides of the computer—as a student, teacher, and also as a parent, Samantha’s experience has not only come full circle, but now she invites you to share in it.
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