Growing up on Chicago’s Southwest Side and later teaching young children in the nearby area, Laura Grandau, PhD, has learned a lot about living, learning, and working in dense and diverse city spaces. The desire to positively impact the life trajectory of children in urban contexts led her first to become a teacher — and now, a professor who helps prepare new generations of early childhood educators.
“Successful teachers have a deep understanding of subject matter, but equally as important are the trusting relationships they build with children and families,” she says. “They also are excellent listeners and communicators. To do this work, they take a learner’s approach. They ask questions, listen, observe, and reflect all the time.”
Supporting children and families involves looking and listening carefully and thoughtfully, Dr. Grandau explains.
“In my work with graduates in early childhood education, we combine theory and practice with large doses of personal exploration and learning about each other. We deepen awareness of who we are and where we come from as we think about helping others want to learn and know how to learn.”
An expert in early mathematics education, Dr. Grandau also works as a senior program developer for Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative, an initiative that focuses on professional development and research related to teaching and learning foundational math concepts.
Dr. Grandau is interested in other early childhood STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teaching and learning initiatives, and her research touches upon various aspects of teacher education in the STEM fields. Given the roles technology and digital media play in daily life, she is interested in studying the link between mathematical interactions and computational thinking in young children. In addition, she also helps professionals who work with young children in educational settings outside of school, such as in museums and libraries, better integrate early math concepts into their services for families and caregivers.