This year, Hillcrest Middle School hired third generation English teacher, Lauren Richardson, whose genetics have educated past wildcat students. Both Lauren’s mother and grandmother taught 7th grade at Hillcrest Middle, and made an impactful imprint on student’s minds. As a recent University of South Carolina graduate, Lauren will teach 8th grade English for the first time and will work to reach the same standards her family left behind. As of July, her mother retired from the Greenville County School System. It was the perfect time for Lauren to carry on the torch of tradition. And, her family has no doubt she’ll light up classrooms for generations to come.
Even as a child, Lauren had the heart of a teacher. She played teacher with her Barbie’s and instructed imaginary students while she visited her mom’s classroom. As a book lover, its no surprise the subject of English caught her interest. It came naturally to her. Especially since English teachers surrounded her at home. However, her mom is her biggest inspiration and aspiration, “I saw how much she was impacting other kids. It’s nice to see a goal I can reach.” No matter the mentor, true passion has to start within and Lauren has it, “If I’m going to do it, it’s going to be 100%. I don’t want to be mediocre.” In the last few months, she’s realized a teacher’s job is an extreme challenge, “It’s hard, but I have really good support. It’s worth it for me,” she explains. Her favorite thing about being a teacher so far is to witness, “The light bulb moment, that’s what I call it. One day you just see it click. You can physically see it and then you know they understand.” The growth and development of local learners depend on a teacher like Lauren’s dedication. Thankfully, an appreciation for education runs in her blood.
Lauren’s mom, Beth Richardson, retired this past July from Mauldin Middle. Her impressive list of accomplishments shines a bright path for Lauren to follow. The University of South Carolina graduate had a music scholarship and received her masters from Furman University. Other accomplishments include winning the Who Who’s award among American High School nominees, and she earned the National Board Certification. After 31 years as a teacher for Greenville County, it’s clear her flame for it never burned out. Even though she taught English, drama and gave flute lessons to musical students post classroom. She continues to stay very active in the school system after retirement. Her time is spent as a volunteer mentor to new teachers and in drama classes, “A teacher’s job is never done,” she admits. During the years of 1991-96, she taught at Hillcrest Middle and illuminated the halls with enthusiasm. Beth explains where her biggest inspiration came from, “My mom was my first teacher and read to us a lot. I also had a teacher who was very influential in middle school. I knew in middle school I wanted to teach because of her.” The most important moments she remembers are, “I love that moment when kids understand something on a higher level. It’s so exciting to see that look on their face.” Beth’s positive influences have lasted years for some students, “I’ve had so many students reach out to me by letter and Facebook. It is just so rewarding to know I had a positive impact. I’ve had kids I taught become teachers, professionals in theater and musicians. To me, that’s the ultimate reward.” As her daughter takes the stage, Beth beams with pride, “She’s so good at it.” If Beth is any indication of what Lauren will be like as a teacher, Hillcrest Middle has hit the education lottery.
Molly Richardson is Lauren’s grandmother on her father’s side. Back in the 1960’s, she became a 7th grade English teacher at Simpsonville Elementary. Then, she got transferred to Hillcrest Middle School after it was built in 1964. That year, 7th grade became mid-level and transitioned to middle schools. No one in particular inspired Molly to become a teacher. However, she did enjoy reading and English just felt like the right fit. Molly shared her fondest memory, “I loved my kids. I loved being able to teach them so that years later they would take their English classes and see how much I helped them.” She even had a few students tell her they brought their 7th grade notebook to college! After she taught for many years, she retired so she could contribute to the family business. Since then, she’s retired completely. All that’s left for her to do now is to enjoy retirement. Any spare time she has is spent on yard work and golf. It’s safe to say she’s earned it.
Teachers don’t just teach one academic subject, they encourage kids to become what they were meant to be. They help mold doctors, nurses, politicians, designers, and leaders. In Lauren’s case, Beth and Molly influenced the educational course of her profession as a teacher. Now, it’s Lauren’s turn to pass on the passion. Her gift will be shared with students and help the world go round.
All it takes is one teacher to see the potential of one student to show them what’s possible. With teachers like Lauren, Beth, and Molly, every child stands a positive chance for success. And, no job in the world is more important than that. ♦