Laurie Groebner: Media generalist at Washington Elementary

NEW ULM – Laurie Groebner’s entry into the field of education followed a progression of other choices – even though, having loved playing school in childhood, she “always knew” education could be the right one.

Groebner married right after high school and worked at 3M, then was a stay-at-home mom. She ran her own daycare and helped operate the family business, Groebner’s Amoco.

When the younger of her two sons started kindergarten, Groebner was invited to volunteer in his classroom, for his teacher, Mary Lee Leske. Leske probably gave Groebner the biggest nudge into the field, says Groebner.

Groebner, a media generalist at Washington Elementary School, is retiring this year, after 12 years at the school.

A graduate of LeCenter High School, Groebner earned her degree in elementary education at Mankato State University. As an undergraduate, she minored in library science and went on to receive a master’s degree in educational technology.

After graduation, she spent some time subbing. She started her District 88 tenure as a computer room paraprofessional under LeeVae Hakes. She later became the media center secretary for Marion Klimmek. In 1997, Groebner was hired as the media specialist in Sleepy Eye Public Schools, only to return to New Ulm in 2002 to her current position, media generalist, at Washington.

Groebner has served on building, technology and staff development committees and chaired Santa’s Closet and Pennies for Patients.

In 2006, Groebner was honored as Washington Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Presenters focused on the many hats she wears at the school: a librarian, a teacher, a technology resource person training others, a testing coordinator working hand in hand with the counselor.

“I almost declined the award,” remembers Groebner. “I didn’t think I’d been there long enough, or done as much as others had…”

Groebner loves books and is an avid reader. She tries to foster the same love and excitement about books in students.

“There is a reader in every kid,” says Groebner. “You just have to find it.”

It is a question of helping a student find the right genre, or the right type of story, that special niche, she notes.

You don’t think of it daily, perhaps, but teachers do touch the future, mused Groebner.

Encouraging children to learn, from books or interpersonal relationships is crucial.

To inspire students to read Groebner, in conjunction with media center secretary Bonnie Lilleodden (also retiring), has thought up interesting, differently-themed book fairs.

‘It’s been wonderful to work with Bonnie,” says Groebner. “I’ll miss her. We made a good pair. We bounced ideas off of each other. … [At the book fair time], we kept them [students] guessing; they never knew what they are going to walk into. … Bonnie’s the creative one. … I’ll miss the camaraderie.”

If you decide to enter the field of education, adds Groebner, you have to enjoy what you do.

Doing it because you get summers off is the wrong reason, she said.

You have to enjoy helping students grow.

In retirement, Groebner is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren. She also will be traveling, quilting and doing Hardanger (Norwegian needlework).

Groebner’s love for both literacy and technology will be missed at Washington, notes her principal, Les Koppendrayer.

“Her collaborative style and her willingness to jump in and help whenever anyone needed it will be greatly missed.”

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