Laura Lambert never planned on leading a classroom, but a career in education found her nonetheless. Named as the Newton County School System’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, she relishes the journey that led her from the lab to her position as a biotechnology teacher at the Newton College and Career Academy.
It was the moment everyone had been waiting for at the awards ceremony. As the presenter broke the silence by reading aloud an excerpt from the winner’s essay, biotechnology teacher Laura Lambert felt incredulous. She knew immediately it was her essay, which meant she was the Newton County School System’s 2023 Teacher of the Year.
Lambert had one certainty growing up: She did not want to be a teacher. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, so she had a front-row seat to the blood, sweat and tears that went into that particular profession. She simply could not envision herself spending many hours a week working during her free time and receiving minimal pay for her efforts.
Instead, Lambert’s passion was for science. As a child, her favorite word was always, “Why?” She was curious about how and why things worked the way they did. When Lambert was in fifth grade, her parents bought her a cordless house phone. Instead of using it to call friends, she spent her free time taking it apart and studying the components that made it work before putting it back together again. This was one of her favorite activities and increased her hunger to learn more about science and technology.
“The phrase ‘pride and joy’ never meant anything to me until I started teaching.”Laura Lambert
In middle school, Lambert’s science teacher expanded her growing passion for the subject. He taught his students by allowing them to apply science in a real-world setting as opposed to teaching them via lectures. Lambert’s high school teachers further built upon her innate love for science and allowed her to take chemistry as a freshman instead of waiting until her sophomore year, like most of the other students. No one in the class knew Lambert was a freshman until after she aced the first exam. When her chemistry teacher lectured the class on how horribly they had scored while the only freshman had excelled, Lambert knew she was destined to be a scientist.
Lambert’s college years began with her majoring in neuroscience at Georgia State University. However, it was not until her senior year of college that she finally knew what she wanted to do. That was when Coweta County’s STEM institute presented Lambert with an opportunity to work to promote STEM education. A STEM institute focuses on teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This job allowed her to visit elementary schools, engage with students and teach them the basics of STEM schools and how they differ from traditional institutions. In addition to working with Coweta County’s STEM program, Lambert also accepted an internship with Georgia State’s Neuroscience department and was involved in designing a booth for the Atlanta Science Festival.
The combination of the internship and the STEM institute position revealed to Lambert that she wanted to pursue a career in a science communication field. That decision would allow her to engage with people instead of being confined to a laboratory setting all day.
As Lambert neared the end of her senior year, a professor introduced her to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which focuses on bringing real scientists into classrooms as teachers. Lambert applied to the highly competitive program and was delighted when she received her letter of acceptance. The fellowship allowed her to pursue her master’s degree at Piedmont University while obtaining a distinct advantage. Unlike some teaching fellowship programs, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation devotes one of the three years to hands-on teaching, from pre-planning to post-planning.
Lambert’s first teaching job was at Monroe Area High School in Monroe, where she taught biology and chemistry. She taught there for two years, admitting that she loved the atmosphere and how the students and the administration became like family. One night, Lambert received a call from her mentor and friend, Mark Crenshaw, who was a STEM institute program director. He shared that the Newton College and Career Academy had an opening for a biotechnology teacher. Lambert had an interview the following day and got the job.
Lambert now has a true passion for teaching, as it allows her to show her creative side while bringing her emotional fulfillment. “The phrase ‘pride and joy’ never meant anything to me until I started teaching,” she said, tears streaming down her face. Lamber indicated that seeing her students receive their own awards provides her with more motivation than she could have ever imagined.
Lambert lives in Covington with her husband, Bruce Hudson, and their Golden Retriever mix named Tucker. They enjoy traveling and spur-of-the-moment activities, with Tucker in tow. When asked where she thinks she will be in five years, Lambert replied: “Wherever the road may lead me.”