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Former CNN writer converges fast-paced media world, teaching style

by Julia Murphy,
  • Laura Williams is the director of Mooney's Curriculum Resource Center. Her previous job as a CNN writer has influenced her teaching style. Photo by Julia Murphy.

Quickly eating her lunch during the few free moments she has during the day, continuously checking her email, consumed by school while keeping a positive attitude and peppy personality, Laura Williams, instructor of education, is more like her students than she may realize.

Former students' artwork cover her walls, desk and shelving cabinet, which reminds her of what she's done and the lives she's touched.

Williams, who graduated from University of Texas, Austin, with a Bachelors of Arts degree in French and earned a Master's degree in Journalism, first worked at CNN, later finding her stride as a school librarian. She finds peace and enjoyment from what she does every day. She is the director of the Curriculum Resource Center (CRC), a mentor to education majors, a part-time instructor and the woman with the biggest smile in the room. 

Walk past the buildings Powell and Duke, beneath the ivy-covered walkway and enter one of many brick buildings with white windows on campus, Mooney. This is home to education majors and the CRC is the living room of the building, a place for students to congregate, study and find teaching resources.

The brightness of the room, the cheery staff and the overwhelming amount of teaching supplies invites more than just Mooney regulars to the CRC, which resembles a school library. 

Williams started her job at Elon four years ago. The room that the CRC now occupies was renovated before her arrival, giving her the opportunity to make it more attractive. Before, it was dark, gloomy and usually locked.

Williams' favorite part of the area is the painted mural, Idea Zone, which brightens the space and gives it a youthful atmosphere. Now, there are colorful posters on the walls, lots of workspace, a cozy seating area and someone working at the desk during the weekdays and weekends. 

The CRC acts as a functioning school library for future teachers, featuring books for children and teachers, games and textbooks. Williams worked as a middle school librarian for 13 years after leaving a media position at CNN in Atlanta.

She worked for CNN as a writer, producing cut-ins. The fast-paced media world engulfed her from the beginning with the big newsrooms and her 24/7 schedule. Her interest in libraries and education resurfaced after leaving Atlanta and moving to North Carolina with her husband. She earned a library degree at UNC-Greensboro and got her first job as a school librarian at Turrentine Middle School in Burlington.

"It's good for people to reinvent themselves," Williams said. "Try new things, discover something else that you're good at."

Although it may not seem obvious, there is a connection between education and media that Williams' co-worker, Joan Barnatt, associate professor of Education, recognizes.

"You could think of teaching in some ways as a media presentation every time you get up in front of the classroom," Barnatt said.

To Williams, media and education fields are related because of the influence of the digital world. Her students learn how to create a Wiki, maintain a blog, create TV news reports and use SMART Boards and digital cameras.

"Teachers need to know the content and the tools," Williams said. "The world we live in is not departmentalized."

Williams' students say they can see her previous media experience in her daily actions.

"I think her working style also parallels what I imagine as the fast-paced, multitasking media environment," said senior Kara Schillings.

Schillings is a CRC assistant and an elementary education major who views Williams as a friend and mentor.

"Selling a message and making an impact so that people have that information anchored in their mind to take forward and use as their own — she's very good at doing that," Barnatt said.

Williams' quirky and positive attitude spreads from person to person. She is an open and welcoming individual who is a staple in a busy student's day.

"Just spend a day in the CRC to get the Laura Williams experience," Schillings said.

Her fun education methods and the respect she gives students help them grow into future educators.

"My life at Elon would not be the same without her," Schillings said.