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Lauren McDonnell Receives UChicago Outstanding Educator Award

LFC faculty member, Lauren McDonnell
Lauren McDonnell, secondary school English teacher and department head at the LFC, has received the 2021 University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award. Ms. McDonnell, who teaches in both the French Bac and IB tracks and coaches the track and cross-country teams, joined the LFC staff  in 2014. On the occasion of being honored with this prestigious award, we asked her a few questions about herself. Congratulations, Lauren!

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a native Detroiter who moved to Chicago in 2006 to pursue a career in public relations. By day I was writing corporate communications for biotech companies, but in the evenings I was tutoring a local middle school student. It turns out that those few hours of tutoring were the best hours of my week. I decided it was time to shift my time and energy toward that passion, and I have been a teacher and coach ever since. Sometimes I have to pinch myself: I get to read and discuss great literature with young people, and then we run together after school for track and cross country. What a life! It's hard work to be sure, but it's also rewarding and fulfilling. My husband is also a teacher (7th grade STEM in Lincolnwood, IL), and we love sharing our best and funniest (and most challenging) moments from school.

Why is the LFC a good fit for you?

I taught in CPS for a few years, but one day I was driving on Irving Park Road and saw "Lycée" in big letters in the window of what I thought was a Catholic school! I was so excited to discover the LFC: I had been a teaching assistant in Thionville, France, for one year after college, and my college minor was French, so the LFC was a perfect fit. I love working with students and colleagues from around the world—I don't know many teachers in the area who have that opportunity. I was just telling my family about the home languages of the students in my 9th grade homeroom: English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Spanish, and Affan-Oromo. Wow. LFC is truly a window to the world.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise our readers.

I have a lot of hobbies and am always trying new things. Pre-COVID I was doing stand-up comedy at The Second City and you could find me practicing my sets at different venues around town. I don't think I'm on track for my own HBO special, but it was certainly fun, funny (I hope), out of my comfort zone, and great practice for public speaking. My more regular hobby is crafting of any kind. I knit, crochet, make handmade books and cards, and I'm finally going to tackle the unfinished dollhouse I begged for when I was little but never did anything with! I have my own craft room at home, and I'm always in there working on something.

About the UChicago Outstanding Educator Award

Each year, newly admitted UChicago students have the opportunity to reflect on their time in school and nominate an educator who played a significant role in their education, made a positive impact in their lives, and whose influence has brought them to where they are today. A UChicago Outstanding Educator shapes young minds in meaningful ways--thoughtfully approaching instruction, sharing an infectious love for learning, and caring for students both inside and outside the classroom. Last year, high school English teacher Andrew Lewis was also honored with this teaching recognition.