Helping Students Learn and Grow - Carolina Country

Helping Students Learn and Grow

Principal Laurie Strope is inspiring students in Onslow County

By Jacob Brooks

Helping Students Learn and Grow
Principal Strope at Richlands Elementary

Howdy, Carolina Country readers. Jacob Brooks again. Leadership has been on my mind, so I went lookin’ for some. But this time, I traded the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Outer Banks. 

Meet my new friend and 2021–2022 Onslow County Principal of the Year, Mrs. Laurie Strope.

Laurie is no stranger to electric co-ops. In high school, she represented Jones-Onslow EMC on the NC Youth Tour, and like most rising juniors and seniors in rural America, that was the first time Laurie visited Washington, D.C.

It was also around that time that her journey as an educator began. A graduate of Southwest Onslow High School, she recalls a specific role model from her high school years. “Dr. Lesly Eason was one of my favorite high school teachers. She taught English & Psychology. She was also the cheerleading coach. I wanted to be like her.”

Equipped with a bachelor’s degree in education from NC State, Laurie’s career began in Johnston County. And, like every educator ever, her servant heart drove her ambition, “I taught for three years and realized my 8th graders had extreme deficits in reading and math. They were behind, and I realized I needed more training.”

"One thing I do believe is you have to look at the whole child. Each student comes from a different place ... So, educators take on the responsibility of doing all we can to help each student learn and grow.”

Laurie’s commitment to North Carolina’s youth took her back to NC State, where she earned a Master’s in Education with a focus in reading. “I had to craft my skillset in teaching reading skills at the middle school level. The training was necessary."

Johnston County was a great start for Laurie, but something was missing. “My sister, Sherri, was having her first baby.” When asked about her relationship with Sherri, love fills Laurie’s voice, “Oh, we’re so close. We’re best friends. I missed my family and wanted to go home. I couldn’t stand not being there and my sister having a baby."

And who do we think Laurie called for advice? That’s right, Dr. Lesley Eason. Laurie’s light shines when discussing her mentor: “I called her and said, ‘I’m ready to move back home.’ That very same day a teacher resigned from her school, Dixon Middle. And the rest is history. I followed her from Dixon Middle to Dixon High.”

She didn’t stop there. Laurie sought an Administrative Degree, went back to Dixon Middle as an assistant principal, journeyed down the road to Drexler Middle as an assistant principal, made a stop at Hunter’s Creek Middle as an assistant principal, and in 2016 became principal at Richlands Elementary.

Laurie is steadfast in her beliefs. “One thing I do believe is you have to look at the whole child. Each student comes from a different place. Everyone has experienced some sort of trauma: family issues, through COVID, loss of loved ones, etc. There has been a ‘something.’ So, educators take on the responsibility of doing all we can to help each student learn and grow.”

Principal Strope also knows learning must happen outside the classroom. With the motto, “Learn. Serve. Lead.,” as their guide, students engage in community service projects, such as canned food drives and writing cards for nursing homes, all in the name of citizenship. “We just want to grow good people, good citizens, good stewards of our larger community.” (Amen to that).

Laurie is gearing up for a new adventure. She’s heading to Southwest Elementary where she’ll be taking over as principal. They’ll be blessed to have her.

Principal Strope, thank you for your leadership and commitment to the youth of NC. Our rural communities thrive with leaders like you.

Oh, and the baby mentioned above, her name is Caroline. And Caroline is now studying for a degree in Elementary Education at East Carolina University.

About the Author

Jacob Brooks is a human being. He tries to be a better person every day. Faith, hope and love are important to him.

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