Special education teacher has ‘Mighty Heart’Mar 06, 2023 10:13AM ● By Becky Ginos
Clinton elementary teacher Laurie Bagford with her daughter Lexi and husband Nigel. Bagford was given the 2023 Heidi Martin, Mighty Heart Educator of Excellence Award at a surprise assembly at the school last week. Courtesy photo
CLINTON—Laurie Bagford has a heart that is two sizes too big. That’s how her principal describes her and that’s why she nominated the Clinton Elementary special education teacher for the 2023 Heidi Martin, Mighty Heart Educator of Excellence Award. Bagford was surprised with the honor at an assembly held at the school last week.
“The award is for someone who has the heart of a teacher,” said principal Julie Lundell. “She exemplifies that love for students. She has an extra love and passion for the children and her work.”
The award is named for Utah resident Heidi Ann Martin, who was born with only two chambers in her heart. Martin had her first open-heart surgery at three days old and had a rare heart and liver transplant at 24. She passed away on Jan. 12, 2017 from complications of her condition, a Davis Education Foundation release said.
“She is a teacher who just loves students who are having a hard time or struggling,” said Lundell. “She radiates love. If one of her students has a soccer game she’s there. She always goes the extra mile and cares for every student who comes in contact with her.”
Laurie is student focused, Lundell said. “She figures out a plan for what it is they need to feel appreciated and cared for and helps them feel like they can be successful at school. She is optimistic and loved by the staff as well because of her kindness.”
“I come from an education family,” said Bagford. “Both of my parents were teachers, my brother is a principal, it’s in the blood.”
Bagford said she was drawn to special education because her mother mentioned that as a teacher she felt there were students who she couldn’t reach that needed more help. “I wanted to see what I could do to help those who needed more specialized instruction.”
It’s tough sometimes but when they get a concept it’s so rewarding, said Bagford. “I teach mild to moderate special education students. Some struggle with social skills but they’re mostly with the rest of the students most of the day.”
Bagford said she tries to make her classroom feel inviting. “I like purple so I have that in my room to create a calming area. Kids might not want to come because of the stigma so I want them to buy into what we need to do here.”
Because she doesn’t get to meet a lot of the other students at the school, Bagford goes to all of the assemblies. “I like to see who’s out there, not just who’s in my classroom,” she said. “I want to be part of the school.”
Not only does she take care of her students, she takes care of the other teachers. “I’m the wellness captain,” said Bagford. “I help teachers focus on themselves once in a while. I work with all of the teachers so they feel they are a part of the school and part of a family.”
The students are amazing and they have so much potential, Bagford said. “I want to help them reach that potential. It may be more difficult for them but they can do it. That I get to be part of that is pretty awesome.”
As part of the award, Bagford receives $10,000 to put toward the betterment of the school. “I don’t know yet what I’ll use it for but something that all the students can benefit from. Hopefully I’ll come up with something great. I’m so grateful that I get to provide that to the school.”
The day she received her award, Bagford said the school had just announced that it was a special assembly. “We were all wondering what was going on. I did not expect it to be about me. It is an honor. It’s nothing I expected to happen ever. I’m surprised and amazed that what I’m doing is making a difference.”