Henrico’s Top Teachers – Lauren Lorello

Henrico H.S. biology
It was an AP course in high school that convinced Lauren Lorello that she wanted to go into the field of biology. Her biology teacher taught with such passion, and was so giving of her free time when it came to helping her students, that she was drawn to the subject as well as the teacher.

Although in college she initially majored in biology with a concentration in pre-med, she gradually realized that the physician lifestyle was not a fit for her personality.

"I decided then that I would rather try to inspire and teach future doctors," said Lorello, "than actually become one myself."

Today, Lorello is inspiring young adults at Henrico High School and equipping them with skills that go well beyond knowledge of biology to those that will help them succeed in life.

"She is the most supportive teacher I know," said a former student who wrote to nominate her. "Mrs. Lorello is a teacher that hasn't gotten caught up with teaching to a standardized test. She wants each and every student to believe in themselves, and she will never give up on you as long as you never give up on yourself."  

The student noted that as someone who makes all ‘A’s and does not struggle with academics, she nevertheless needs help with school – especially with her tendency to be a perfectionist. "I hold myself to very high standards, and I get very, visibly upset when I don't meet these standards," wrote the student. "Mrs. Lorello noticed this very early on when I was in her class. In the years since, she has taught me to laugh, and more importantly to laugh at myself. I look up to her on so many levels."

Lorello is the first to acknowledge that there are countless other subjects besides biology on her students' minds as they stroll into her classroom and that motivating students is a daily, unrelenting task. "Trying to get them to focus and to spark their interest," she said, "has always been one of my toughest, yet favorite, challenges."

Among her favorite "teachable moments" was an impromptu lesson that occurred after her Biology I students were intrigued one day by a lab she had set up for the subsequent AP class. During extra time at the end of the period, Lorello used parts of the lab to set up a demonstration and surprise them.

"Different substances were placed in beakers and when a solvent was added, the solution would change colors. The students were in awe," she says. "They continued to ask questions for days about that lab. It was truly refreshing to see them understand something and be really interested in it."

Other rewarding moments include seeing a student achieve the AP exam's highest possible score the very first year she taught the class. Since AP is the equivalent of a first-year college course, Lorello says she struggled all year just to stay a step ahead of her pupils.

"I probably did more homework than most of my students," she admits, "but seeing all the effort [pay off] was a feeling that I don’t think I’ll ever forget."

Lorello also gets a thrill when former students go out of their way to take another class she teaches – or in one case, even arrange their schedule to regularly spend non-class time with her. It is that case, which involves a junior who spends every period of study hall in Lorello's classroom, that reminds Lorello of why she became a teacher.

“She is brilliant,” said Lorello of her former student, "but she is such a perfectionist that she sometimes lets classes get the best of her. When she needs someone to talk to, just about life or other classes, she comes to me.

"[That] makes me realize that I am making a difference," says Lorello. "I think this is a feeling that many teachers might strive for their entire career, and never actually realize."

It just so happens that Anna Canova, the nominator quoted above, is the student who means so much to her.

Canova said that she spends her study halls in the "warm and inviting environment" of Lorello's class because she can help grade papers or do other special jobs for Lorello – and because she has learned so many life skills from Lorello.

"She has taught me that making mistakes is okay, and I can't express how much that means to me," wrote Canova. "She has taken me on as personal project when no one else has ever bothered.

"I still can't say I love school; I still find it very stressful," admits Canova. "[But] Mrs. Lorello will take me under her wing no matter what; she has never failed to wipe my tears and tell me I'm worth it.

"Knowing there is someone who cares about me makes a world of difference."  
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