MFA, Indiana University
Growing up "in the world of ballet and music," Laura danced with Chattanooga Ballet, played the piano and violin, and was the valedictorian of her class at Chattanooga High School for the Performing Arts. At UTC she became a poet as well, attended the PEN International Writer's Conference in Slovenia in 1997, double-majored in English and in French (she studied in France for two summers), and graduated summa cum laude.
Laura then spent three years earning her MFA in creative writing at Indiana. In addition to taking classes and writing a poetry collection that served as her thesis, she taught freshman composition and both fiction writing and poetry writing. She earned a first prize from the Academy of American Poets at Indiana, and several of her poems have been published.
Laura's mom and her mom's sisters are lifetime teachers, and Laura never doubted that she would teach as well. (When she was young, she helped her mom shop for school supplies and developed "this strange love of office supply stores.") At UTC she tutored in both French and English, and after teaching at Indiana, Laura returned to Chattanooga and taught every level of French for a year at Red Bank High School.
At Baylor, Laura loves her small classes and the opportunity to help students individually. She also loves the variety of work in her seventh grade English classes; students read and write poetry and short stories, study grammar, learn vocabulary, read Shakespeare. And she appreciates how open her students are: "They're all willing to try new things. I don't think they have as many inhibitions when it comes to creativity." She adds, "They're generally happy; I find us laughing quite a lot."
Laura creates a classroom where every student can comfortably contribute, and in modeling her own curiosity about the world, she tries to impart to her students "that's it's a really good and positive thing to go and search" for information.
Laura continues to write poetry (she participates every semester in the Meacham Writer's Workshop at UTC), and she loves walking in the Chattanooga area and attending performances and arts festivals with her husband, Carey Shinbaum.
Written by Jim Stover, 2003