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Q&A: Carol Lawrence

Q: What roles have you had at Providence Day?

I taught Computer Apps for Lower and Middle School, and then I taught Graphic Design for Upper School. In Computer Apps they learn how to type, how to use a computer, how to use apps. All of the business applications. Now I teach AP Computer Science Principles, Web Design, Web Applications, Computer Apps, and AP Computer Science Principles.

On the athletic side, I started as an assistant coach. Eventually, they decided to split the track program, so Ben Hovis ’96 took the boys and I took the girls. Before, Ben did distance and I did everything else. When they split the program we started winning state championships year after year. The 2021 spring season was eight straight wins for the girls and seven straight wins for the boys.

Q: What was your path to working at Providence Day?

Prior to my life in the U.S., I was a young teacher back in Jamaica. I was 17 years old and teaching high school math, PE, and grade 4. I think those were the best years of my life. I taught in a very poor area and made sure every kid had food. I didn’t have to worry about paying rent because I was living at home so I used all of my money as a teacher to make sure the kids had everything they needed

While I was a teacher in Jamaica, I was also a den mother to Cub Scouts. They would come to my house on weekends where they learned to cook, sew, and iron. I was running track there and I got recruited for college track with a scholarship at the New York Institute of Technology where I studied information systems

I worked in the corporate world for 15 years. My last stint was at JP Morgan Chase on Wall Street where I was working as a server engineer. I worked for many years on Wall Street and my bosses were great. I supported the UK and Hong Kong so I’d go to work at 6 a.m. and my mother was so wonderful, she would get my daughter Arielle [Massillon ’13] ready to go on the school bus.

We lived close to Jones Beach [off Long Island] so we spent a lot of time there in the summertime and it was a great balance. Some nights when I had to put the servers up she would come back to work with me, and she thought it was great when I gave her a screwdriver and let her play with an old hard drive.

The year before I decided to move to Charlotte was when 9/11 happened. I happened to take the day off from work and took my daughter to school. Each day, we trekked from Long Island to Brooklyn and that was an hour’s drive. I would take her to school, park, jump on the subway, and take the train to Wall Street. But on this day I said I need to do some work on my house, paint some rooms, so let me take her to school and then I’ll head back home.

It was on the way back home that I heard the news of what was happening. And I thought wow, that’s right down the street from where I work. Her school ended at 3 p.m. and it took me until 9 p.m. to get her because no one could come in and out of Brooklyn. It was crazy.

It took me a good four years of putting the ball in motion and researching what’s next and I decided Charlotte would be the place. My whole goal in moving to North Carolina was to be a teacher and not work in corporate anymore. I really loved those two years I had teaching as a teenager and I knew it would make a difference.

I walked into PD off the street in August with my resume and said, ‘Hi, my name is Carol Lawrence, do you have any openings?’ I was willing to teach anything. Sarabeth Kinery was at the desk and she gave the resume to [former Head of School] Gene Bratek who said as soon as something opens I’ll let you know. I asked if I could go speak with the athletic department and met [former Athletic Director] Barbara Fricke and Sue Fitzgerald. Let me tell you, they were the nicest people I ever met. And I thought if anything opens I will definitely take a job here because
they are nice people.

Soon, Barbara said we have a position for a JV field hockey coach and an assistant track coach so I said, ‘OK, I’ll start there.’ I got a position at Providence High School as an assistant teacher and then I came here and coached in the evenings. That worked well. I applied for and got the position of a retiring computer science teacher, so in 2008 I was in the classroom at PD.

Q: How has Providence Day impacted you and your family?

The school has let me be who I want to be. My whole philosophy is that it takes a village.

I’m a mother and I love teaching, but from me, it’s tough love. When Sam Caudill was the Head of Middle School, I had a student who wasn’t trying. I told him if you keep being as lazy as you are you’re going to be sweeping McDonald’s floors. I put that on his report card.

Sam said, ‘Carol, you can’t do that,’ but I said, ‘Sam, it’s true, he’s not doing the work.’ That student just graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and he came back to visit, and his mother said, ‘Carol, every time I see you I laugh!’ That’s what I’m used to. He came back two summers ago to visit me and said, ‘Coach Lawrence, do you remember when you said that?’ I said, ‘I remember!’ I will always remember that story.

My daughter built great relationships with great people when she was here. Arielle did sixth and the first half of seventh grade at South Charlotte Middle School and then came over to Providence Day in the middle of seventh grade. She fit right in. I was her field hockey and track coach so we got to work together. When she left here and went to Villanova for track, it was an easy transition because PD prepares you well. The same work ethic she had here went to sports and everything at school. She was in leadership on the team, and now she’s a program manager for Dick’s Sporting Goods. She’s so young doing all of that. ‘That’s the captain in you,’ I said, bringing it over to corporate.

Q: What are some of your most memorable moments at PD?

Mine is watching kids learn how to make tea! The first week of class I introduce it. They bring in teacups, come in and make tea, sit at the table, and sip quietly. We have little tea packets, hot water, a little sugar, and two kettles. It’s the first time many of them have tried tea and some of them get hooked on it. Some kids graduating from college now are still drinking tea.

The tea idea came from my student Becky Goins ’14 who is now in medical school. She would not sit still and she’d talk a mile a minute. So I got her some tea, and that’s how it started. I teach my advisee group how to cook so I have my hot plate. They also learn how to sew and iron their clothes. It’s home economics during advisory and I teach them life skills. One of the unique things about the students here is that the majority really embrace learning and they aren’t scared to learn new things.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of PD?

I have a team in Jamaica that I adopted and have the Lawrence Sports Foundation where I find teams that need help. I send them equipment, get shoes for the kids, and teach them how to coach. I met the principals and taught them about the SATs and how to help the kids get ready for college because they really don’t know – it’s in a rural area – so they aren’t privy to a lot of information that the city schools are. On Sundays, I get on a two-hour call with coaches to help them set up a program for the rest of the week. Last November I went there and met the coaches and the kids in person.

I’m also an avid gardener now. It’s beautiful and I like doing it. I don’t really have much spare time because on the weekends I often work with kids who want to work on their hurdles or something else, so I’m always coaching. I make sure I coach the kids who want to do it in college and help them get some good opportunities by matching their personalities with the school and the coaches who will be there. I make it happen based on where they get accepted. I am my daughter’s ‘Momager’ and I tell the kids, ‘I’m not your mom but I know where you will belong.’

I spent 15 years in the corporate world, 15 years in teaching, so what’s my next chapter? I’m looking for that now. This is my last semester here but I want to make sure I’ll be able to coach in the evening. I have a lot of kids in the pipeline that will do well at the next level and I see that they are ready and I don’t want to walk away.

Every year I act like they’re my kids to put through college and I am being Momager for them, too. Arielle is my inspiration now. I got her through and now she’s pushing me to go ahead.

Among many outstanding scholar-athletes, Lawrence was coach to Anna Cockrell ’16, who became PD’s first Olympian last year.

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