I normally wait to release this until the last day of the year, but this year’s hero demanded the honor sooner. You see, Laurie Howard passed away. Surrounded by her loved ones, she left us far too soon. Laurie was many things: a mother, a wife, a teacher, and a friend.
I’ve known Laurie for almost three years. I met her through this blog. A teacher in Caesar Rodney School District, Laurie and I were in fierce agreement on many things. That standardized testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is wrong. That every single parent has a fundamental right to opt their child out of that test. That corporations are slowly taking over public schools and school districts are powerless to stop it.
Laurie even had her own short-lived blog but only a select few were aware it was her. Back in 2015, Laurie launched a blog where she challenged the Delaware State Education Association to fervently support House Bill 50. She called out DSEA leadership for their sheepish support of the legislation. The blog did not last long as Laurie was terrified of being found out and terminated from her job as a teacher. But it had an impact. From accounts I heard, Jenner was very upset about Laurie’s blog posts. But Laurie felt strongly the teacher’s union was in bed with the privateers in public education. At least their leadership was. I loved that blog and I wish Laurie had been able to continue it but I completely understand her reasoning to end it abruptly. Many assumed they knew who wrote that blog but they were wrong. It was a secret that I carried to her grave. But I know she would not mind having this knowledge out now. To me, it was one of her many legacies. My only regret is not saving her articles for posterity and remembrance. When Laurie shut down the blog she deleted all of the posts.
Laurie joined the Delaware Parent Teacher Association in 2015 so she could be in a position to advocate to a wider audience. She was well aware and did research on the corporate education reform movement and the dangers it posed in our public schools. One of her articles focused on how PISA was a misused test. One of her biggest worries was the growing amount of tracking going on with students. She felt, and I agree, that schools have become more about diagnosing students than educating them. She did not like the feds controlling education and thought they should stick their noses out of local control.
In 2016, Laurie started another blog in an attempt to save the Schwartz Center for the arts in Dover. She was a fervent supporter of theater and the arts. I wished she had won that fight as well.
Last Spring, Laurie was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was already set to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. I had the honor of attending her retirement party at the Schwartz Center in Dover. She was happy and humbled by so many of her peers and friends celebrating her time as a Delaware educator.
I talked to Laurie over the summer, mostly on social media. She was scared. She didn’t want to leave. But she didn’t want the world to see this. I did my best to not talk about education matters because I wanted the borrowed time I spent with her to be about her and to see if she needed anything. On her Facebook page, she talked about how beautiful this world is and she put on a brave face. In the past few weeks, Laurie put this up on her account:
Okay, time is getting mighty precious lately. I’ve been brought to the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. My hope is that the awesome care I’ve received the past two days here will provide for extended life opportunities with my friends and family! I was asked to help my friends figure out what to say or do as a result of this stay. Just know if I’m your FB friend, we are friends. I love you, I care about you and your family. You don’t have to send expressions of love and longtime friendships (unless you want too). My love and best wishes for a long and healthy life are sent without question. Love to all!
Laurie’s post was just who she was. A couple of years ago, Laurie was able to answer a question for me. One that haunted my soul for a long time. It was purely coincidental, and while I won’t get into the question, it did give me understanding and comfort about someone. For the longest time, I thought this person was evil incarnate but Laurie urged me to forgive this person. And I did. That’s who she was.
Together with our friend Natalie, we would haunt meetings in Dover. Especially the Assessment Inventory Committee and meetings about the opt out bill. We would give public comment about how bad the testing was and how it wasn’t right for Delaware children. Laurie’s struggles with students in the classroom over this test are very similar throughout the state. My only wish was that Laurie would have been able to use her voice at its full force because it was a voice worth hearing. I will miss you Laurie Howard. I find comfort that you are watching over all of us and I pray that you can impart your wisdom to those who think education is a financial playground. I know Laurie would want me to keep fighting the fight, and I will, the best I can. May you rest in peace my sweet friend.