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MEMSPA Region 10 Honoree Laura Garrison

The MEMSPA Region 10 Board is proud to recognize Laura Garrison, the principal of Rankin Elementary in Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools as the recipient of the Region 10 Principal of the Year Honoree for the 2020-21 school year.

Laura is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelors’s in elementary education. She earned two Master's degrees from Eastern Michigan University in Educational Leadership and Curriculum.

Laura started her career at Flint Community Schools twenty-seven years ago. During her time as a K-3 teacher, she taught at Garfield Elementary for two years and eighteen years at Freeman Elementary. Laura’s first administration position was seven years ago when she became an assistant principal at Durant-Tuuri Mott.

Laura was invested in Carman Ainsworth Community Schools before becoming the principal of Rankin Elementary in 2016. Two of her children, Mikaila (2016) and Alivia (2020) are graduates of Carman-Ainsworth High School, and her son, Luke, is a junior at CAHS. All three of her children went through Rankin Elementary. To understand the district better, she served on the Carman-Ainsworth Board of Education and went on to be recognized as a distinguished member through the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB). Laura has volunteered in the community with the Carman Cancer Crushers, American Cancer Society and also participated in a parent group that helped renew a millage.

When Laura speaks about her building, she feels like she is “back home”. Laura commends her team at Rankin for their dedication and hard work. She is a firm believer in mindset, which has gotten her through challenges and has helped her lead her building by keeping the main focus on the whole child. Since being the principal at Rankin, Laura has implemented a daily morning mindfulness time, restorative justice practices, added a large sensory room, music therapy, and even a wellness room for her staff. All those things have contributed to Rankin Elementary as having one of the highest MSTEP proficiency to free and reduced lunch index in the State of Michigan. Laura takes this success in stride by saying, “We try to maintain a calm learning environment so our teachers can teach and our children can learn.”

Laura excels in building relationships with staff, students, and parents. Staff members stated that she goes above and beyond when it comes to getting to know the students in her building and that she works countless hours to ensure that all students find a home at Rankin Elementary. As evidence of this Rankin elementary provides food for families as part of a backpack program and they partner with local churches and volunteers to provide families with resources. Laura provides many professional development opportunities for her staff members and highly encourages cross-grade level collaboration. Laura’s staff also appreciated her trust in them and they said that she is easy to talk to due to her open-door policy. Teachers reported that Laura gives them the freedom to be creative and flexible with their teaching as long as students are making the necessary gains. She encourages collaboration and team decision making and that she is always searching for and offering opportunities for the parents and students. Her belief in implementing a whole-child approach for physical and emotional well-being is another thing that her staff attribute to the success that students have at Rankin Elementary.

Laura believes that you don’t have to sweat the small stuff that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. She affirms: “Working with the students and staff at Rankin Elementary is more than a job, it is my passion.”