Teachers of New Jersey: Laurie Beeden, Indiana Avenue, School 18, Iselin,. Formerly 4th and 5th Grade Special Ed. Currently Gen Ed Second Grade. 

What inspired me to become a teacher was my grandfather. He was raised in an orphanage, and he only had an education until 4th grade. When I was younger, I had a little bit of a learning disability myself. So, he would always say, ‘Laurie, teach me what you learned today. Be the teacher. Teach me what you learned.’ I was dyslexic. I started struggling in first grade, but more so in second grade, and then I was retained in second. But my grandfather would always help me. For example, my mom didn’t have the money to get me proper help. But someone talked with her and told her to use sandpaper to cut out letters. And if I ran my hand over them and it was smooth, I was going the right way but if it was rough, I was going the wrong way. So, my grandfather bought tons of sandpaper and cut out the letters for me.  

He always wanted me to be a teacher or a veterinarian. I can’t deal with blood and medical stuff, so being a vet was not going to work, so I went the route of being the teacher for him. 

He was like my father. His name was John Allen. My grandfather was a twin. He grew up without his mom. She passed away when she delivered my grandfather and his brother. His father already had three other children. So that’s why my father and his brother went into the orphanage and why my grandfather was raised without having parents. I was four when my parents got divorced and my father didn’t stick around. So, my grandfather acted as a father to me, and I even asked him if I could call him daddy. So, he would always joke, and he said, ‘You can call me Daddy, you can call me Papa. You can call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner!’ We always had such a great relationship.  

When he was around 72 years old, he passed away. I was a freshman in high school. It was Thanksgiving. We had Thanksgiving at my grandmother and grandfather’s house because he had cancer, so we went there because he had just come home from the hospital. He couldn’t stay at the table with us, so I wanted to check in on him. When I stepped into his room, he just started talking to me about the Virgin Mother Mary and how beautiful she was. So, I went and got my mom, and we took him to the hospital. He passed away a few weeks later, on December 13th. My grandfather had a huge impact on how I teach my students, and I am so grateful to him for that.  

Interview by Gregory Andrus 

Portraits of the Jersey Shore 



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