Goodbye to Madam Lauren


If we are lucky, we remember at least one teacher we liked very much from our childhood. If we are very lucky, we remember a teacher who changed the course of our lives. Some of the STA students already understand how fortunate they are to have attended a school run by Lauren George. Some may not realize it for years, but Lauren has forever changed how they experience learning, how they interact with teachers, and how they see the world.

When I met Lauren in 2006, she was still "resisting the call" and had not fully decided that she would go into teaching. She volunteered with The Baobab Home and taught at our breakfast program. After she’d been with us several weeks, Caito and I were leaving for our first trip to the USA. We handed Lauren the keys to everything. She managed the street boys and their needs, and kept everything under control. Of course she did. She didn’t know it yet, but she was Madam Lauren in training, and destined for a lot more.

Thankfully for all of us, Lauren heeded the call. She went to university and was officially recognized for being what she always has been in her heart and soul: a teacher. In 2012, it all came together. Lauren wanted to stretch her wings and travel, and I was here struggling to keep a one-room schoolhouse functioning.

Like so many teachers, Lauren is an unsung hero. Since I am the figurehead of Baobab, I often get STA credit where none is due. The truth is that I was only the dreamer. Lauren made my dream real, and made it better and stronger than I had ever imagined.

She came to us with two years of experience in the classroom. She lived in a tiny room with no electricity or running water. The bathroom was a long walk away in the middle of the night. She did a whole lot of persevering.

Now she is a self- taught (with remote mentoring from her mother) education administrator. She’s taught every grade from Prep to Standard 7. She’s been our theatre director, swim coach, sponsorship manager, and social media expert. She has led all budget and strategic planning. She does costume design and all the sewing. Lauren has even revised and improved on certain aspects of the Tanzanian curriculum. She’s created some incredible promo videos that never got the accolades that they deserve. At The Baobab Home, she has created birthday memories for each child that will last a lifetime. She makes them feel cherished as individuals. She is the best Christmas party planner ever. She has trained with several of the kids over the years to run for exercise and for fun. Most of them have now completed 5 and 10 km races, and done well. As a mother, I am grateful for every minute that my kids got in the classroom with her because she makes the most of every minute.  

It’s impossible to say where Lauren has had the greatest impact, but what she’s taught us all about education might be it. She has trained teachers to use methods that they were never taught in Tanzanian schools, creating ripple effects that will spread far and wide. Because of her, our teachers past and present, have positive discipline techniques to use to replace caning. She created a system of professional development that encourages STA teachers to really think and reflect about their craft. Lauren has taught me so very much about education. When Tanzanian government inspectors come, or other visitors who have more rigid ideas about education, I LOVE boasting about the little revolution she’s created here. I love seeing the lights go on in their heads when they see that respect, inquiry-based learning and hands-on teaching are so much more effective than sticks and chalk. If I had a time machine, I’d come back and find a way to be her student.

In addition to all of the above, Lauren has created a place where you, our global family, can know that your charitable dollar is going directly where it’s needed most. And through the wonders of technology, you can watch, almost live, as your donations transform lives. It is our job now to carry on Lauren’s beautiful legacy. Let’s get more people and more power behind her school. Let’s find new Tanzanian and foreign teachers who want to take what she has created, loved and nurtured into existence and grow it.

Thank you to the George Family for being so incredibly supportive of Lauren and of STA. We know that it’s not been easy to have her so far away for so long. Lauren’s mother Debbie has taught at STA, and her sister Monica has provided valuable civil engineering advice and labor. Lauren has brought a lot of Australian talent to Baobab.

Thank you Adam. We weren’t ready to lose her two and a half years ago, but I like to think that some divine intervention was involved, putting you in the right place at the right time.

If you’d like to be part of the gift we are getting for Lauren, please email me personally. Everyone else, send some luck and love to the very best teacher. To all of Lauren’s future students, lucky you!!! Send her back sometimes. We love her and miss her so much.

Written by Terri Place, Director of The Baobab Home and Steven Tito Academy.

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