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Move to Keene State Pays Off for Bennett

Lauren Bennett
Lauren Bennett

A longtime professor in the Education Department at Keene State College, Dottie Bauer was curious. Why would a student attending a large university with a good reputation in sunny California want to pick up roots and come to Keene State? She soon found out the answer to her question.

Bauer first got to know Lauren Bennett in 2013 when she helped the then-20-year-old from Riverside, CA, transfer to Keene State from California State University, San Bernardino. Bennett, who was born on Long Island and moved to California with her family at age six, told Bauer that she felt more like a number than a student at the large institution and was confused with the inconsistent advice she was given pertaining to her education major.

Bennett learned about Keene State through a family friend and began doing some research. Attracted by Keene State’s small, close-knit community as well as an education department that offered consistent and thoughtful advising, Bennett knew she had found the right place to continue her academic pursuits.

The more Bauer got to know the young woman, the more impressed she was. “Lauren is the most upbeat, positive, warm, and friendly person,” said Bauer. “She always has a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. You could see not only children but her peers relate to that.”

Bauer was so impressed with Bennett that she selected the now-senior early childhood education major to speak at the College’s recent Celebrate Momentum event, at which donors have a chance to meet the students whose lives they have impacted. Bennett has been the beneficiary of several scholarships, including the Filomena R. Raich Scholarship in 2014–15 and the Class of 1964 Teacher Education, Dorothea A. Kitlan, and Delta Kappa Beth Knight Book Grant Scholarships this year. Wanting to contribute to her expenses and not be a financial burden on her parents, Bennett spent the summer working in Keene. Last fall, she managed to post a 3.8 GPA while holding down two jobs and carrying 20 credits. “I practically lived at the library. I don’t know how I did it,” she said.

Arriving at Keene State turned out to be a breath of fresh air for Bennett, who enjoyed the smaller and more personal classes. “It blew my mind that the professors knew all our names,” she said. “They care what you have to say and they want your input.”

Developing her love and patience for teaching while working at a summer camp for autistic children, Bennett couldn’t wait to get into the classroom—even if that classroom happened to be the toddler room in the College’s Child Development Center (CDC), where she had eight kids pulling her in different directions. In the spring of 2014, she was placed in a first-grade classroom at the nearby Chesterfield School, where, she said, she had an experience that made her realize teaching was something she was meant to be doing for the rest of her life.

“The children were just coming back from lunch, and a child approached me and told me to close my eyes and put out my hand,” she remembered. “Hesitantly, I complied, and when I was instructed to open my eyes I had to fight back the tears. In my hand I held an apple. He explained, ‘This is because you are such a great teacher.’”

Bennett, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology last spring, returned to the CDC this fall before beginning a second student teaching placement last week, at the Wheelock School in Keene. Expected to earn her degree in early childhood education in December, Bennett won’t be heading back to California just yet. She plans to pursue her master’s in Keene State’s special education program and remain in the area, where she has become familiar with local school systems and has made many valuable career connections. “Lauren has made good use of her time and opportunities here at Keene State. She has more than thrived here. She has entered to learn and has already begun to serve,” said Bauer, who is delighted that Bennett will pursue an advanced degree at the College. “She is going to stay in the area and do our master’s program and become a New Hampshire girl.”

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