Influencer of the Week: Laura Newman, SunRidge Elementary

Newman is a kindergarten teacher at SunRidge and has been with Orange County Public Schools for 20 years.

  • By
  • | 2:00 p.m. January 13, 2021
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • Neighborhood
  • Share

Now in her 20th year with Orange County Public Schools, kindergarten teacher Laura Newman has always found joy in empowering her students to reach their highest potential. Teaching students — especially kindergartners — this school year has been a challenge, but Newman has taken it in stride and always puts her young learners first. 


What brought you to your school?  

We’ve lived in this area for 18 years. Having three boys of my own going through Orange County Public Schools, it’s always been important for me to work in the same community where I live. SunRidge is a great community school, and I was excited when a kindergarten position became available.  

What do you love most about your school?  

I love the people! I work with a wonderful team of ladies and a gentleman and have a very supportive administrative team. My students and their families are the best. This has been a challenging school year, but my parents have been very understanding, flexible and appreciative.  

What is your motivation?  

My motivation is my students. Knowing what I do or say, or how I make them feel, will leave a lasting impression on them encourages me to be the best teacher I can be. I am motivated to give my students a kindergarten experience filled with fun, hands-on activities they will always remember. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?  

The most rewarding part of my job is watching my students grow and learn. Kindergarten is a year of substantial growth. It is so exciting to see a student come into kindergarten not knowing any letters or sounds and watch them learn to read over the course of the year. The fact that they make you feel like a celebrity doesn’t hurt, either. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?  

I enjoy spending time with my family! Before COVID-19, we enjoyed going to the theme parks. I love all things Disney! Since COVID-19, we’ve spent more time doing puzzles and playing board games. We also love going to the beach and the mountains. 

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?  

My favorite teachers were my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Call, and my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Gibbs. After I graduated college, I went back to my elementary school (in Independence, Missouri) to visit both. I remember so many details about kindergarten like the Letter People, the sound of Ms. Call’s soft voice during story time and playing in the sand box. They both made learning fun and inspired me to be a teacher.  

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?  

I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher for as long as I can remember, because I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. 

What is your favorite children’s book and why? 

It’s hard to pick just one. One of my favorites is “I Think I Can.” I read it every year on the first day of school. We discuss having a “can-do” attitude and always doing our best. Then, on the last day of school, I read “I Knew You Could.” It always makes me teary eyed because they did it, even if at times they didn’t think they could! 

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration and why? 

My biggest inspiration is Walt Disney.  

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? 

If I could have any superpower, it would be to predict the future.  

If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why? 

Well, one would have to be Jack Hartmann (children’s singer). You can’t teach kindergarten without him. Another would have to be Trans-Siberian Orchestra because their Christmas music is amazing. And, of course, you’ve got to have some country!