Carol Lautenbach

I’ve been a teacher for as long as I can remember. My first classroom was a kitchen table with one student – my little sister – and a very narrow focus on one thing: reading. After seeing an infomercial for “Hooked on Phonics” on our black and white TV, I asked my mom to call the number on the screen. She did, and when the kit arrived, I read the instructions, taught the lessons, and my precocious sister went off to kindergarten as a reader. I was hooked on teaching and learning!

After our own four children were born, my husband, Bob, and I watched them problem solve, ask questions, explore and connect new ideas to what they already knew. I became very interested in choosing an educational path for them that aligned with what we had observed. The amazing educators at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Congress Montessori set up environments that followed each child as she or he inquired, played and discovered as they achieved meaningful goals. This educational foundation has served our children well in life, in parenting and in careers in education, business, nonprofits and hospitality sectors.

In 1992, three days before the school year began, I accepted a part-time English teacher role at Lee High School; for the next 29 years I was fortunate to serve in various roles in Godfrey-Lee, a beloved community full of dedicated educators, eager students, caring families and committed community partners. In my final role as assistant superintendent for teaching and learning design, I had the opportunity to work with philanthropic organizations, many educational and cultural partners and a talented group of district leaders and educators. We all worked together with educators and families to center on students and design for equity and innovation.

Since retiring from the district in 2021, I have been involved in a number of interesting projects including working with a small team of educational researchers and innovators on The Ultimate Playbook, professional development and coaching model that supports a playful approach to education; have co-authored “Making Schools Work: Bringing the science of learning to joyful classroom practice,” a book about creating equitable, playful and broad/transferable skill-based environments for learning and have dabbled in travel writing.

I have long known the value of media coverage of schools. When I was a teacher in Godfrey-Lee, I saw how excited my students were when they knew that Gary Morrison from the Grand Rapids Press was coming to talk to them about the things they were learning and doing. Letting the broader community know what was happening in our classroom connected the world outside school with what was happening inside and gave my students a real-life audience for their work.

Kent County’s School News Network creates excitement and clarity about the important work of creating the best learning environments in our public school districts. As a reporter, I hope that my work will open this window into classrooms, schools and districts to build understanding of the excellent teaching and learning that happens throughout the county. Together, reporters and readers can create strong connections in communities. It’s an honor to be part of such a talented and caring team!

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Carol Jasperse Lautenbach served in many roles during her 29 years in Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, most recently as assistant superintendent for teaching and learning design, a role she retired from in 2021. She is co-author of “Making Schools Work: Bringing the science of learning to joyful classroom practice” and has written for The Alan Review, The Rapidian, and Midwest Living. She was honored to be appointed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's 2021 Student Recovery Advisory Council’s Innovation and Redesign subcommittee. Carol is inspired by the students, educators, families, community partners, cultural institutions, and philanthropists who work together to design and build joyful, equitable learning communities.