Heroes for Health: Ann Laing

This spotlight series is designed to profile members of the Racine Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health. Over the coming months, the series will feature individual Collaborative members, each of whom is integral to the group’s efforts to forge stronger connections and establish new approaches to strengthen the social and emotional development of our children.

This series is an opportunity to highlight and recognize the diverse individuals, services and resources available to the Racine community.

Who: Dr. Ann Laing, former
Superintendent of the Racine Unified School
District (RUSD)

Website: www.racine.k12.wi.us

Email: annalaing@gmail.com

Phone: 262-634-0093

Twitter: @RacineUnified

About RUSD:
With approximately 21,000 students, RUSD is the fourth largest school
district in the state of Wisconsin. The district has 21 elementary schools including 3
magnet elementary schools, 7 middle schools including 1 magnet middle school and
1 charter middle school, and 6 high schools including 1 magnet high school, and 1
charter high school. Racine Unified features rigorous academics and strong
programming in the fine arts, foreign language, school-to-career, physical education,
technology, and other electives. The RUSD mission is to educate every student to

Words from Ann, a Hero for Health:

Teaching was always a calling for me, and over the course of 26 years with the
Racine Unified School District, I had the great honor of helping to educate Racine’s
children as a teacher, principal, supervisor and superintendent.
No two children are alike. Each child observes and processes information differently.
I’ve seen how mental health issues can interfere with the ability of a child to learn and perform at
his or her best.

As teachers and educators, I believe it is our duty to help with early identification of
mental health needs. We can make an enormous difference in a child’s life by putting
in place the support and structure each student needs in order to have an equal
opportunity to learn and live up to their fullest potential.
While it is not appropriate for educators to diagnose children, we can work with parents and counselors to
identify solutions and seek proper treatment.

I’m heartened by the overall shift in the public’s awareness of mental illness. Across
our community, we are becoming more aware and more readily understand and
approach mental illness as we might a physical illness. Necessary additional
resources and support for teachers has accompanied this increase in understanding
and awareness. Counselors and special educators who are able to work directly with
teachers and students throughout the school district help foster optimal learning
conditions for children who are suffering from mental illnesses.

Reflecting back on my time with the Racine Unified School District, there’s much that
I’m proud of. Working with teachers, we created a kindergarten prep program,
focusing on special education, We integrated the classrooms so that students with
special needs have the benefit and opportunity of learning alongside their peers in
our main classroom, rather than apart. It brings me joy to reconnect with some of
these former students and to see them doing well.

I have personally seen what early identification, structured support and coordinated
treatment can do to ensure mental illness doesn’t interrupt the opportunity for a
child to learn and grow. It is for this reason that even after my retirement, I intend to
stay involved with the Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health.

See all Heroes