THE COMMITTED EDUCATOR
LAURA CRAGO KAUFFMANN
Lives in: Vero Beach
School: Indian River State College
Family: Husband, Alan
Kauffmann; daughters, Ainsley
Kauffmann Seeley and Kiera
Education: Vero Beach High
School; bachelor’s degree from Mercer University; master’s
and Educational Specialist degrees from Nova Southeastern
How I got into teaching: “My mother was my inspiration.
She was so committed to her students and to the community.
What a leader. There are those in Vero who as one of their best teachers.”
still remember her
What I like best about teaching: “Both the continuity and
the change. I have taught many parents, then their children. I
have taught all the children in an extended family! I love seeing
Teachers of the
Teachers of the
Something my students probably don’t know about me:
“I am an avid fan of General Hospital. My mom in law, Elsie
Kauffmann, introduced me to that escapist TV decades ago.”
BY WENDY DWYER
Poet William B. Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling
of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
If this is true, then Laura Crago Kauffmann, an
Indian River State College assistant professor, is guilty of
lighting tens of thousands of fires on the Treasure and Space
coasts. Nearly a half century of the Vero Beach resident’s life
has been devoted to teaching and inspiring young minds at
the high school and college levels.
Kauffmann was born in Mississippi, but when she was
5, the family moved to Florida where Kauffmann’s parents
had been raised. Having come from a long line of educators,
teaching is practically in Kauffmann’s DNA.
“My grandfather was a professor of child psychology at
University of Florida,” she says. “My husband, Alan, taught
for 37 years. My son-in-law just made a career change to be
a teacher. My daughter, Ainsley, has been in education in so
Kaufmann believes that teachers fill a vital and challenging
role in society.
“We desperately need those who are committed to educating
future generations,” she says. “It was always hard and it
has become so much harder. The eyes must be wide open and
we must remember that it is for students that we are entering
Though she started out teaching high school English,
Kauffmann transitioned to Indian River State College, where
she teaches Student Success, a course for students just entering
Teachers of the
Kauffmann enjoys the diversity of her students who come
from all backgrounds and have ranged in age from 14 to 89.
Reaching students who are on so many different levels and
have such a wide difference in experiences requires creativity,
empathy and a wide range of tools and knowledge — especially
during a global pandemic.
“My class is often the first college credit class they take,”
Kauffmann says. “The course is all about helping them know
and use the strategies to be successful both in college and in
life situations … students now have so many pressures and
so much instability. For school, they need reliable Wi-Fi and a
person whom they can contact for troubleshooting. Often the
professor is the first line in that case.”
In addition to helping students overcome academic and
pandemic obstacles, Kaufmann says one rewarding part of
her job is being part of the changes in her students’ lives.
“At IRSC, we serve many adult learners,” she explains.
“They maybe be seeking to improve their skills or to transition
to a new career entirely. They come to us because they
want to be here. They are enthusiastic about the opportunities
and choices that they realize are before them and are
grateful to IRSC for supporting them: emotionally and generally,
“For so many, IRSC is the gateway to personal improvement,
to their growth and eventual success. It is a pretty heady thing,
as a professor, to be a part of that type of transformation.”
One challenge many may not realize is how much educators’
workloads have increased, Kauffmann says.
“Due to COVID, I am much more at work and available
to students,” she says. “At home, I often sit with my laptop
what my students have gone on to do and become.”
right in front of me. If I hear a ding, I answer. Students have
my school phone, where messages automatically go to email
for me to receive when not in the office, typical college email,
Blackboard messaging, and they know my office hours when
I am at work and on duty to be available to them.
“At IRSC, we welcome their contacts and are eager to
Nearly five decades of teaching has only fueled Kauffmann’s
passion for education.
“After almost 50 years, I recognize the deep and wide value
of education,” she says, “not just in the world of work but
in personal development. How to be resilient, how to think
critically, to evaluate all sides of a situation, how and when
to persevere, knowing your values and how they influence
priorities, self-management and how to create balance and
When students come to her to ask about becoming teachers,
her advice is simple.
“Do it,” she says. “I often tell students there is no perfect
job, except mine, and I am not giving it up yet. After this
many years of the pure exuberance of teaching, I encourage
students to become teachers.”
Kauffman says the most important item in her teaching
toolbox is her respect for students as individuals.
“I am intensely interested in them and helping provide
them the tools and strategies to become successful,” she says.
Kauffmann not only teaches but is committed to supporting
her colleagues. IRSC presents the annual Harriet Kirk
Crago Professor of the Year Award in her mother’s name and
in honor of the value of teaching.
“The work of education is to empower others,” Kauffmann
says. “It is a calling to serve others. For many of our IRSC students,
it takes such courage to even walk in our door. Often,
they do not know what they want from us, but they know
their path to their brighter future begins at our front door. I
am honored to be the one to meet them at the front door.”
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