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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Plans change: Local teacher's path to education, writing were unexpected

  • Laura Moyers, a music teacher at Leavenworth's Anthony Elementary School, never planned a life and career in music. 
    She never planned to be a teacher.  
    And, she never planned to write a book.  
    “I had such deep respect for teachers — it was like an unreachable, unattainable goal, like a dream,” Moyers said.
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    • For more:
      "Time Out for Teachers," a book by Anthony Elementary School teacher Laura Moyers, is available at The Book Barn, 410 Delaware St., in Leavenworth, or via amazon.com.
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      For more:

      "Time Out for Teachers," a book by Anthony Elementary School teacher Laura Moyers, is available at The Book Barn, 410 Delaware St., in Leavenworth, or via amazon.com.

  • Laura Moyers, a music teacher at Leavenworth’s Anthony Elementary School, never planned a life and career in music.
    She never planned to be a teacher.  
    And, she never planned to write a book.  
    “I had such deep respect for teachers — it was like an unreachable, unattainable goal, like a dream,” Moyers said.
    Moyers grew up a “preacher’s kid,” in small Texas and Oklahoma towns.  
    When the church’s pianist quit, her father wrangled the local home economics teacher to give his daughter lessons.  
    “She had me playing in three months,” Moyers said. “Not very well, but I was playing enough that I could play the same two hymns over and over and over again.”
    College was also not part of the foreseeable plan for Moyers, whose family "never perceived college as an option," she said.
    But, another woman changed Moyers direction on that, too.
    When Moyers was in her early 20s, married and working at the church, she befriended a neighbor not much older than her.  
    The neighbor was fighting a terminal illness, and was expected to live only a few more months, when Moyers noticed a stack of college brochures on her table.  
    Sharon, the neighbor, told Moyers that it was never too late, and she should consider going back to school.
    “I didn't think I was college material,” said Moyers, but her neighbor was encouraging.
    “(She said), ‘You should go — you can do this,'” Moyers said. “She put that seed there, and planted such a strong belief in myself.”
    Once in college, Moyers envisioned a career in psychology.  
    And, once again, one person had a dramatic effect on her life’s path.
    This time, it was a professor disengaged from his students who convinced Moyers psychology wasn’t for her.  
    “That made me realize the power of a teacher, their influence,” she said. “My whole career switched because of one teacher.
    “I didn't realize it at that age, but now I realize how powerful we as adults — especially we as teachers — are in influencing someone's life.”
    Moyers’s new book, "Time Out for Teachers," also was unplanned. The book is available at The Book Barn, 410 Delaware, and through amazon.com.
    Moyers has been an elementary teacher for 25 years, and those experiences make up the book.
    The rough draft was written quickly, but it wasn’t until Moyers was named a regional Teacher of the Year for Kansas that her purpose for the book firmed up.
    Page 2 of 3 - After receiving the honor in 2013, Moyers joined her fellow Teacher of the Year winners on a 5,000-mile tour of Kansas’s colleges and universities, making more than 55 presentations to education students.
    Having spent her career in front of elementary-aged kids, she was worried at first about an older audience.
    However, Moyers loved the conversations she had with young teachers, who were often struggling with experiences that mirrored her own from 25 years ago.
    “I realized in that process that here is some information that new teachers need,” she said. “To say: ‘Let me save you some trouble, let me help you.’”
    A retired principal confirmed her thoughts after reading the draft, suggesting Moyers take the book of mostly anecdotes and turn it into a primer for teachers.
    Moyers did, and quickly handed out more than 200 copies of the rough version to teaching students she met as she toured the state.  
    “Now I look as (the book) being a handbook for new teachers to help understand how a child thinks,” Moyers said. “And to understand how to deal with colleagues, principals, and parents.”
    “For example, the average person does not realize how scary it is for a teacher to come to a parent-teacher conference. They want to be able to say the right thing, and to do the right thing for these kids.”
    Moyers used journals she kept during her early years teaching as inspiration for her writing.  
    “When I started, part of the battle was ego,” she said. “You know, ‘I'm the teacher you must do as I say.’”
    “That's not the way it really needs to be. There's a way to maintain a classroom with such dignity and such respect so that the learning process and outcomes are amazing.”
    Moyers first came to Anthony Elementary four years ago, drawn to Leavenworth by colleagues’ positive views of the district, and to Anthony in particular for its innovative “Keyboard Lab.”
    Her classroom houses a dozen keyboards and a wall full of guitars, with a golden recorder dangling in the front of the room. Throughout are demonstrations of Moyers’s teaching techniques at work.  
    “We keep a ritual, we have a procedure,” she said. “The kids know exactly what is going to happen, and they feel secure in that.”
    One of Moyers’ core tactics is using student leadership and giving students particular jobs to keep them engaged and learning.  
    “In my classroom, they direct most of what we do in here,” Moyers said. “We have jobs — if we want to prepare kids for life, we have to create jobs for them within our classrooms.”
    Page 3 of 3 - At the back of her classroom is a desk called the “points desk,” and the student who sits there is in charge of determining which students get points for different work.
    “They are like the boss,” Moyers said.  “It is powerful because they get to reflect on how the classroom is supposed to work.  
    Other students conduct, and others teach composition. Some older students participate in a new program Moyers started last year – the Library Art Music P.E. program.  
    In LAMP, older students who have sometimes been labeled “difficult” are brought into classes with younger students to act as mentors, even teachers.
    “Kids that are struggling — they come in and assist with the classes,” Moyers said.  “It works because they need to step back and see what it is all about, and they need to see the purpose of their education.”
    Moyers hopes her new book will help teachers and non-teachers alike find better ways to “discipline with dignity” and engage students.  
    “Sometimes it is the teacher who has to change,” Moyers said. “The transformation of the teacher so they realize it is not about ego, it is not a fight, makes a big difference. Instead, it is an acceptance and respect and to try to realize the purpose of what we're both there for.”
    “Kids are difficult sometimes, but your attitude and your intense desire for them to succeed and help them learn is a powerful combination.”  
    Now that her book has been endorsed by the Kansas Association of American Educators and the Music Educators’ Journal, Moyers is planning a second about her experiences as a “preacher’s kid.”
    Her inspiration still comes from students, she said, as well as the educators she gets to work with every day at Anthony Elementary.  
    “There is not a day that goes by that I don't see something unique in this building by my colleagues,” Moyers said.
    “The creativity, hard work and passion that they put forth is nothing short of heroic, and for kids these days, it is very hard for them to find heroes.”
    “Teachers are on the educational battlefield. It is up to us as a community to protect our teachers so they are fit for duty.  If the world could see what our teachers do on a daily basis, the discussion of raising teacher salaries would not be an issue.”
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