Keri-Ann McLaughlin knows exactly why she's in the classroom and has been changing lives for the better every day.
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EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: KERI-ANN MCLAUGHLIN -- FOREST AVENUE SCHOOL SECOND GRADE TEACHER
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (MAY 6, 2021) – Some people don’t know why they’re in the career they are or how they even got there.
Don’t count Keri-Ann McLaughlin among them.
Ask the Forest Avenue School second grade teacher why she’s an educator and she can remember the exact moment teaching started to really interest her.
“When I was a little girl in the third or fourth grade, my teacher at St. Leo the Great (School) in Pawtucket, Mrs. (Dorothy) Severin asked me to ‘count’ (grade) papers,’” McLaughlin said, smiling. “I remember the feeling I had doing that and how proud I was and that’s one of the reasons I still teach today. To try to inspire every one of my students, no matter who they are and where they’ve come from. To find what really inspires them.”
The oldest of five siblings, McLaughlin and her family grew up in Lincoln. Today, she’s married to her husband Alan and the couple has three children, Morgan-Kate, Quinn and Aidan.
A 1981 graduate from Salve Regina University in Newport, McLaughlin majored in special education and minored in elementary education. After moving to Aquidneck Island in college, McLaughlin said she never wanted to leave.
Right after college, McLaughlin started her career at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport, where she taught kindergarten, second and fifth grade over the next several years.
At the time, she also was recruited as the first female director of the Brantwood Camp in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The summer camp served underprivileged children from urban areas across the region, trying to give them outstanding experiences away from home during the school break.
In 1989, McLaughlin was hired by the Middletown schools to teach second grade at the former Oliphant Elementary School. At the time, Superintendent of Schools Rosemarie K. Kraeger was the principal of the Oliphant Lane school.
“As I got older, I realized this was the absolutely perfect career for me,” McLaughlin said. “I love children. I love helping them and opening the world to them in a way that makes sense. I feel so fortunate to have found this.”
Forest Avenue School Principal Beth Hayes said the school – and especially all McLaughlin’s students – were lucky to have her too.
“With COVID and distancing, this year has been a tough one for everyone,” Hayes said. “Teaching has changed so much for all of us, but particularly for those that have been doing it a while. She has been such a leader through this and she shows every one of her students such love, respect and belief, she’s pretty amazing.”
Like most successful teachers, McLaughlin said having a routine and clear expectations are important in her classroom, which she affectionally calls “2M.” But that’s not to say McLaughlin teaches from a script or expects any two days to be alike.
“Children have a lot more to say than I think a lot of adults give them credit for and they’re very introspective,” McLaughlin said. “When it comes down to it, they just want to be heard and if you don’t listen, you’re going to miss a lot of what’s happening for them.”
McLaughlin said she wants to be “that teacher,” the one all her students remember in a positive way forever.
“I know people say this, but it genuinely is such an important job,” McLaughlin said. “You can tell when you’re making a difference and to be able to impact a life in a meaningful way? That’s the best. The best.”
Working at Forest Avenue School since 1994, McLaughlin said she’s surrounded by so many teachers who inspire their students every day.
“Forest Avenue has a wonderful school community,” McLaughlin said. “I love the population we have here, the diversity, the support we get from the parents and the community. If you visit any of these classrooms, you’ll see teachers who are changing lives.”
Going on to earn a master’s degree in education from Providence College in 1998, McLaughlin said she’s never wanted to do anything else but teach.
“I always say once a 2Mer, always a 2Mer,” McLaughlin said. “I’m starting to have the children of students I taught and that’s pretty amazing. It’s awesome to see where my students end up in high school and college and beyond. I love when they’re out there, making a difference.”