This is the fifth and final article in a series of profiles about each finalist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2022 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The citywide winner will be announced during Teacher Appreciation Week.
Laurie Yates is a Landscape Design and Turf Management instructor at the Technical and Career Education Center (TCE), teaching juniors and seniors who are interested in learning about horticulture and considering careers in this field.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Yates spent the first years of her career in the private sector, working for a national landscaping company, before becoming a horticulturist for the City of Virginia Beach in 2012. It was there, while concurrently getting her MBA from Old Dominion University, developing training programs for city employees and helping TCE students obtain pesticide certifications, that Yates realized she wanted to be a full-time educator. She joined the TCE staff in 2016.
“She dedicates much of her time preparing her students to either enter the workforce directly or to continue their education,” says David Swanger, TCE’s director. “She has worked extremely hard to develop partnerships with the City of Virginia Beach Departments of Parks and Recreation and Landscape Services, many local landscaping and horticulture businesses, nurseries and greenhouses, to provide her students with real-world and relevant learning opportunities.”
One of those real-world experiences that Yates provides for her students is the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF) House Project, an ongoing collaboration between classes at TCE, VBEF and local businesses. In addition to her own students, she works with those in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electricity and HVAC classes at TCE. Yates coordinates all aspects of the project, from managing business partners’ time and material donations to handling all the unexpected issues that come with major construction.
“I know that it is rewarding for Laurie to see students put skills learned in the classroom to use,” explains Donna Hall, a school-to-work transition advisor for VBCPS. “They also learn about teamwork, professionalism, construction safety and the various qualities that comprise a valuable employee.”
Yates is quite passionate about the importance of providing career- and technical-oriented classes in high school, so students gain skills, experience and industry certifications that can lead to internships and full-time positions in lucrative career fields after graduation, regardless of whether they decide to pursue a degree.
“I am very open with my students about how much I learned in my formal educational background, but also about how much I have learned in my experience outside of a traditional classroom setting,” Yates wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “I also make it clear to my students how important it is to continue to learn and pursue certifications in whatever career they choose. I try to lead by example when it comes to life-long learning.”