Laura Greier of Loves Park has been an early childhood teacher for 11 years, the past three at Rockford’s full-inclusion preschool, Nashold Early Childhood Center. She chooses “not to be blind to the differences of others, but to see each student as a success.” She says, “Many of my students, when they walk into my classroom, come to me having experienced trauma, little to no social emotional regulation skills and very little educational background. For my students, getting their basic needs met, such as an unresolved conflict at home or eating a meal, this is their first priority. This becomes my first priority too.” Additionally, Laura feels that all teachers and all students have “strengths to build upon, interests to share, and experiences to honor.” Learning from the behaviors Laura models, her students become empathetic, mindful problem solvers who accept, respect, understand, support and encourage each other. By being responsible for their own problem solving, her students gain confidence and leadership skills and their desire to learn grows. Laura is respected not just by her students, but also by their parents and her peers, school and district. Last summer, she led instructional sessions during district-wide professional development days, reaching more than 80 teachers. She is Nashold’s building mentor, supporting and guiding new teachers. The parents of two of Laura’s students wrote about one son who was reading well above grade level. Laura created ways to help him become an even better student and nurtured his early love of reading. Her attention helped their other son overcome his shyness; he now has friends and a love for learning. Principal Erin Salberg shared another story about Laura’s desire to make positive differences and persistence in finding what works best for each student. A student was struggling with self-regulation and problem solving. Laura contacted his family to work with her to develop the skills. Though the family initially resisted, she continued to share praise and provide opportunities for them to share success stories with her. Realizing that this teacher truly cared and was not going to give up on their son, the family accepted her concern and offers of assistance. “The family and Ms. Laura became an unstoppable force. The student made so much growth in that year, that he went from being referred for special education the year before, to maybe needing a 504 plan, to going to Kindergarten with very few supports.” Laura says her mission is to “include all and empower those around me to become the best versions of themselves. Today I lead my school. Tomorrow my students will lead the world.”