Kaneland McDole teacher highlights social, emotional learning to bond with students

Lauren Banbury works with first graders at Kaneland McDole Elementary School in Montgomery.

At an early age, Lauren Banbury fell in love with school.

“She was a little blonde girl who was at home in school, so it was the place she belonged,” said Barb Messina, who taught Banbury in third grade at Kaneland North Elementary School. “She was just a happy, happy kid who loved learning.”

Today, Banbury loves teaching. She followed her love for learning by becoming a special education teacher at Kaneland McDole Elementary School in Montgomery.

Lauren Banbury works with first graders at Kaneland McDole Elementary School in Montgomery.

“Mrs. Messina was the teacher who made learning so much fun and made me want to become a teacher,” Banbury said. “How am I going to make learning fun? How am I going to make my students feel safe and valued? She really helped shape me into who I wanted to be.”

After retiring in 2016, Messina and her husband sold their home in Elburn and now are spending time traveling in a motorhome. Thanks to today’s technologies with social media, Messina is able to see what many of her former students are doing with their lives, including Banbury.

“I’ve been following her on Facebook and she’s so hands-on involved with her kids,” Messina said. “I loved teaching school because I thought it would always go from the hand to the brain so there was lots of hands-on experiences and stuff. She really is involved with her kids.”

Initially, Banbury thought she would become a general education teacher, but later realized she could be a difference-maker as a special education teacher.

“I truly got really excited with special needs and how everyday is a little bit different and how the needs of every kid is unique,” Banbury said. “In college, I decided to get a double major in special education and elementary so both avenues were opened. I just love special ed. I love working with every student and how everyone is different.”

Lauren Banbury works with first graders at Kaneland McDole Elementary School in Montgomery.

Perhaps her biggest passion is incorporating social and emotional learning into academics.

“Right now is such a unique time for students,” Banbury said. “Some struggle on the behavior side to communicate their emotions. Getting them to communicate their needs to their parents and advocating for themselves are some of my biggest goals.”

In a recent class, one of Banbury’s students was working independently but having a difficult time staying focused because of other activity in the classroom. He raised his hand and asked if she could talk more quietly.

“It’s so beautiful to see them advocate for their learning,” she said. “I’ve had parents email telling me their kids have asked them to slow down because they’re having a hard time. I just love how they’re advocating for themselves and using their own voice to really focus on what they need to do to be successful.”

Banbury said she expects to remain in the classroom.

“I truly never see myself leaving the classroom or special ed,” she said. “I love developing IEPs and working with parents and teachers.”

And, who knows, maybe inspiring a future teacher or two.

“She’s an amazing person and Kaneland is lucky to have her,” Messina said. “And now she’s passing it onto the kids she’s working with and they can call her their favorite teacher.”