LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Laurie Velasquez

Position: Third Grade Math Teacher
School: Ward Elementary School
School District: Abilene ISD
City, State: Abilene, TX

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Music that Describes Laurie

Laurie Velasquez was nominated by McKenzie Husing, the parent of a student.

"In August 2018, my then 8-year old daughter, Ciara was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her left leg called synovial sarcoma. She has missed all but 3 weeks of school since it started this year," said Husing. "She is in Mrs. Velasquez class, but she didn't start there. There were several reasons why I had her switch teachers. First of all, there was an incident at the school with a student in Mrs. Velasquez' class who had made a negative comment to Ciara's cousin, Harlee, who was also in third grade."

Mrs. Velasquez immediately handled the situation. She knew that the students needed to learn more about Ciara's condition to be able to better cope with this diagnosis. Mrs. Velasquez' class has "Wishful Wednesdays and Thankful Thursdays," and even though Ciara was not in her class yet, Mrs. Velasquez was using these days to help a group of fellow third grade students deal with Ciara's cancer diagnosis. The students choose what they as a class want to wish for and be thankful for. On the first Wishful Wednesday and Thankful Thursday of the year, the students chose Ciara.

"Mrs. Velasquez has had a huge impact on these students by helping and teaching them how to have compassion and love for one another. She has also taught them it's okay to have feelings and to talk about them," said Husing. "The students talk about their feelings, and they want to be there to support Ciara through her battle."

Mrs. Velasquez has not only been there for Ciara, but for this entire group of kids since day one. She organized a party with the entire third grade, and they all made cards for Ciara before she left for her big surgery. Ciara's favorite thing to do is run, so that's what students did during the party the Friday before she and her family left for Houston. They had a huge third grade race with cookies and drinks at the track. Mrs. Velasquez also had a flyer sent home to have the entire elementary school wear pink to support Ciara on this Friday. She has gone above and beyond what any other educator has done.

Fast forward a bit to now. Ciara had surgery to remove the remaining cancer on October 16th, 2018, and was in the hospital for a few days. After that, she was in Houston for almost three weeks. During her time away, Mrs. Velasquez and her class would FaceTime with Ciara. While she was at the hospital, she was having a really hard time dealing with not being able to walk (she is now in a wheelchair), and she struggled with physical therapy until her first FaceTime session with the class.

"After this visit with her friends and Mrs. Velasquez, Ciara had a fire light up inside her, and she had us ask for the therapist to come back so she could try again. That day, she was successful in getting out of bed with a walker and into her wheelchair with minimal help," said Husing. "It was the first time she put her 'Ciara Smile' on her face since surgery. Her surgery was a leg reconstructive surgery where she lost part of her leg bone due to the cancer. Being able to FaceTime with her friends while she was in Houston made a huge impact on her emotional state. When we returned to Abilene from Houston, we took Ciara to see her class for the first time since surgery and since the emotional "running party." It was an amazing and emotional moment for all of us. Her third grade class sang Fight Song by Rachel Platten to her as she entered the room.


"Mrs. Velasquez has gone ABOVE and beyond for Ciara and this entire group of third graders," said Husing. "These kids will have a bond for the rest of their lives after going through this with Ciara. She has helped them cope and learn how to deal with their feelings and emotions in a tough situation. Not everybody can do what Mrs. Velasquez does. She truly is one of a kind, and our family appreciates her more than she'll ever know! Instead of letting kids think 'Ciara's just different,' she helped them realize we all go through tough experiences in life, and when we have friends and people to talk with, it makes these experiences a little easier. Every student began to share difficult situations that they were dealing with in their lives. They all realized that everyone eventually has a hard time, and that's okay. She has helped these kids genuinely love one another, even with all the ugliness and hate going on around them at such a young age. She has even offered to help Ciara catch back up with school during the summer or even during the week for free so that Ciara isn't too far behind. Mrs. Velasquez came to visit Ciara at home during the holidays. She texts regularly to check on Ciara and our family. She is truly a LifeChanger in our community!

Below are additional links detailing Ciara's journey. or 
Fundraiser -- 
Instagram-- Ciara_Strong

Ms. Velasquez and class singing to Ciara on her first day of visiting after having her big cancer surgery --

In the News

Fox15 Abilene --



Comments (25)

Kristen Wall Posted over a year ago

Wow. Was just looking news from my old elementary school, and realized I was truly blessed to attend Allie Ward Elementary. And even more blessed to have Ms. Velasquez as my 3rd grade teacher, 5 years ago!! I miss having her! She's such a sweet and gentle soul!??

Cheryl Barber Posted over a year ago

Ms. Velasquez is a gentle, quiet leader on the Ward campus. As a member of the Lighthouse team for Leader in Me, she encourages co-workers through positive, empowering campus activities. She seeks to understand and be understood. She makes sure all her students are able to find their voice in her classroom, identifying and naming their emotions. Students know they are safe and loved in her room. Ms Velasquez engages them through music, fun and a language of learning. Her methods for teaching math are on the cutting edge. Students develop math skills as they discuss the way numbers work together. She is teaching life-long skills in communication, self-awareness, assertiveness and confidence in using math. An exemplary teacher in all areas!

Rhonda Fry Posted over a year ago

My son and his wife are educators and the stories I hear about the number of “uncaring teachers” just floors know there are teachers who are truly out their to teach whatever needs to be taught and that is not in her curriculum to make her students not only better students but better little citizens is an angel sent from Heaven!!!

Laura Fletcher Posted over a year ago

Ms. Velasquez is a the most kind and selfless person I know! She is an angel!

Dystani bailey Posted over a year ago

She is a amazing teacher who gives all she can. She puts here whole heart into what she does and helps the kids with whatever they need. She goes above and beyond the daily routine. She has made a difference in everyone she has ever met and impacted they’re life in some way.

Zina Meyer Posted over a year ago

God bless this wonderful teacher! She has gone above and beyond by teaching her students life and coping skills. Kids learn by example. She is being and presenting what a GREAT example she is by helping the children learn about Ciara's journey.

Delma Collingsworth Posted over a year ago

God bless this teacher for going above and beyond her job to bring comfort for Ciara, and to educate her other students as to what Ciara has been going through and keeping the class and Ciara connected.

Christopher Cikotas Posted over a year ago

She's taken the time to make Ciara feel like it's all going to work out. She's to this day still helping her and boosting Ciara's spirits. There aren't that many teachers that go this out of their way for their students and ones like this deserve to be recognized. Thank you Mrs. Velasquez

Joann Aldrete Posted over a year ago

It all comes from the ??, so happy you took the time to make cancer awareness to these kids. Their is so much more to life than some of us don’t know or understand about. Living life to the fullest is the only thing we can all try & do. And people like you making a difference is what makes this a better world a better place to live in.So Thank you!

Dana Newton Posted over a year ago

Thank you for all you have done Mrs. Velasquez, you are an angel sent from god, to teach and look over his children, difference maker, what a life changing year this has been for our family..

J Levario Posted over a year ago

My two children come home talking about all the good things they are doing for their school mates. It is awesome to know that not only is Ward teaching them to be successful in life but also to be good humans. Ms. Velasquez is a large part of that. The kids are eager to help others and are compassionate towards each other. Proud to be a Ward Wildcat family!

marenda vasquez Posted over a year ago

proud to have a teacher like Mrs Velasquez

Jackie Ververs Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Velasquez has turned Ciara's third grade year into an experience that has positively impacted her life in a dark time of her life. Mrs. V. is that rare individual that has compassion and caring to the depth of her soul. Through her guidance and love, this third grade class has come together to support their little classmate in the fight of her life. Through Mrs. V.'s influence, Ciara's classmates have learned a lesson far beyond what is expected at their young age. It's the ability to care and support others in a time of need.

Tarresa Cosson Posted over a year ago

My oldest son had the pleasure of being in Mrs. Velasquez's 3rd grade class a couple of years ago. She always has a smile and a warm greeting for everyone! Most of all, she genuinely loves her students!

Brittney Stutts Posted over a year ago

Amazing teacher who truly deserves this award!!!

Candis Mora Posted over a year ago

The amazing things and loving atmosphere I've seen and been told by my best friend about Ms.Velasquez warms my heart knowing there's people like this in the world... she's truly been a blessing

Treva Vance Posted over a year ago

This is a beautiful tribute to a an amazing teacher and person. I do not know this teacher personally but my grandson goes to Ward and he loves it there. What amazing gift she is to this child and all the children at Ward school. God bless her and best wishes to Ciara and her family.

Kerry Watson Posted over a year ago

Thank you Mrs. Velasquez for the constant support you have provided to Ciara and her family. Your students are learning from your example of selflessness and caring.

Katy Etter Posted over a year ago

My daughter is in Ciara’s class and I agree that Ms. Velasquez is a one of a kind teacher! She is so amazing and truly a blessing! Chelsi gets so excited when she’s able to talk to Ciara or when Ciara has came to make a surprise visit, it’s always the first thing she tells me that happened at school! Ms. Velasquez is making such an amazing impact on these young children’s life and helping to show how to love and support one another!

Dennise Naredo Posted over a year ago

Ward Elementary has amazing teachers and Mrs Velasquez is definitely one of them. My daughter is in second grade at Ward and knows Mrs V, all she has done for Ciara, and I hear such positive stories and great education about cancer all the time from her. Thank you for making such a difference to not only Ciara but other students through all this!

McKenzie Husing Posted over a year ago

Please see the emotional YouTube video of Mrs Velasquez and Ciara's 3rd grade class singing "Fight Song" on Ciara's 1st visit after surgery ?? We love you Mrs Velasquez! You are not only Ciara's teacher but you have become a friend to our family. We hold very very special place in our hearts for you!

Lesa Stutts Posted over a year ago

Amazing once in a lifetime teacher!! Gift from God !! God places people in your life for a reason!! Thank you Laurie Velasquez you are a blessing to Ciara Janea Husing!!??????

Lilly family Posted over a year ago

Our family has been watching throught this journey all the way from TN and we're in awe of everything you've done for Ciara, her classmates and, most importantly, her family. They hold a special place in my heart even though I've not met them. Your love and commitment just proves that my heart has always been right about them. Thank you and everyone who has helped you, from the bottom of my heart, for doing things I'm physically unable from so far away, for this deserving family. You are one of a kind!

Patricia Dentler Posted over a year ago

What a amazing teacher??Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do ..

Brenda Baar Posted over a year ago

Some teachers teach for the paycheck but others, like Mrs Valesquez, have a passion for children. I’ve laughed and cried at some of the things she has done to include Ciara but she brought her passion to make a difference in Ciara’s and her student’s lives. Thank you, Mrs Velasquez!