Lauren Hollier is an obvious fixture in the Middle School. She stays busy zipping in and out of buildings and classrooms, greeting many students on the way.
“I’ve always had this thing for kids,” she smiles. Growing up, she was known as the go-to babysitter in the neighborhood because she was the trusted teenager that both parents and children liked to have around. And not much has changed since then.
After spending her undergraduate years at Vanderbilt University and student-teaching in the Nashville area, she moved back to Atlanta to work in the Dekalb County public school system. She spent 11 years there. She fed students that walked into her class hungry. She learned that the majority of her students came from single-parent households for a number of reasons. She had been exposed to similar school systems in inner-city Nashville, but this was different: Here she was growing as a young teacher, not a student-teacher, these were her students. She had offers to teach in other school districts, but she was called to those students. Then, it shifted: She felt called to serve at GAC.
In the beginning years, she found herself moving through different classes in the elementary and teaching at almost every grade level. This was a sweet time for her, as several times her own children and their friends would be present in the classes. Finally, Lauren settled at the Middle School level. Now as the school’s Academic Dean, she has found a longer term fit with the older students.
She doesn’t have classes of her own to teach anymore but that doesn’t stop her from creating and maintaining those special bonds with students from throughout the years. Now she stays connects with students through extracurricular involvement: coaching the middle school tennis team in previous years and leading the Science Olympiad team in the upcoming school year.
Regardless of teaching classes, Lauren has found a love for the Middle School age group--a population of students that needs and welcomes a little more support, while being able to branch out on their own. It isn’t easy, but it is one of the most rewarding for Lauren.
During the 2017 school year, she was awarded the H.A. Fincher Spirit of Excellence Award, designed to highlight those who leave a lasting impact on the GAC community, even in the mundane day-to-day work. It is the highest honor given to GAC teachers.
One of Lauren’s lasting impressions is how she makes you feel. She places the importance on learning everyone’s name: Parents and students, teachers and visitors. Her ability to speak with authority and authenticity has been known to settle parents in times of stress. And at the middle school age, that can happen a lot.
“It’s a team effort -- Parents and teachers have to work together to make sure that the child is maximizing their full potential,” Lauren said. “There are things about students that parents might not get to see at home.”
School faculty and staff with parents help see the whole student and acknowledge what is right for him or her at this time. It’s that fine-tuned attention that Lauren still gets energized from.
“If you do parenting well, it’s a lot of work,” Lauren admits. After seeing the development of so many children, including her own, she knows that great effort reaps great reward. “It’s important to let parents know that in the middle years, we’ve got this and we all work as a team.”
Teamwork is the Middle School’s main priority. The faculty and staff stress the importance of knowing, and caring for each student; academic deans included, everyone is always thinking about how the school’s services, opportunities, and human capital can be used to better invest in the students.
“Middle School is a unique time in a student’s life,” Lauren said. “Instead of making it a general fit for everyone, we make it a specific fit for everyone. We want to make sure we are doing what’s good for each student individually.”