Employee Spotlight- Laurie Keller

Laurie Keller | Michael Murphy IV PhotographyLaurie kept an eye on the Castle and its major renovations during the early 2000’s. She would pass the Castle on her way to and from work as an Algebra teacher for Charlevoix Public Schools. Little did she know that in just a few years she would be working at the Castle giving historical tours.

With a microphone headset Laurie leads groups of visitors through the Castle buildings and surrounding gardens. Her 27 years of experience as a teacher taught her many skills that carried over to her new duties. “You can’t just give people information; you have to question them.” Her tours include questions such as “Why are there tiles in the silos?” and “Why do you think John VanHaver didn’t succeed?” These questions engage her group and make them think about the why’s and how’s of the information she is sharing. Another skill from teaching that she’s found useful is helping people see the whole picture. There are so many fascinating facts about the reconstruction and stories about the different owners that it’s easy to get them all jumbled up. Laurie is an expert at making it all come together into one cohesive presentation.

Her favorite tours are large bus tours and evening Twilight Tours. The buses offer her a chance to play to a group’s dynamic, since they often come from the same area or are the same approximate age. The Twilight Tours have an even better reason to be loved. “I’m not a morning person!” says Laurie. During the evening tours “it’s quiet; we have the Castle all to ourselves. We can go wherever we want.”

Laurie’s pep is famous around the Castle. She walks 3 to 3.5 miles every day, in addition to her guided tours. A runner for more than 30 years, she competed in 1 marathon, 4 half marathons, and scores of 10K’s. “I liked to run downhill. I was a little out of control.” She started running when she went back to college for her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology at GVSU. In addition to her Master’s, she holds a BS in Secondary Education- Math major, Music minor from NMU, an additional 15 more grad credits and a Master Gardener certificate from MSU Extension. To complete the certificate she had to complete not just class work and testing, but also community service gardening.

When the Castle started offering Fairy Garden Make & Take Classes, Laurie was a natural fit to teach them. She’s comfortable talking in front of a group and her Master Gardener certification gave her the knowledge on where to find any garden information she needed. So she started researching and became the resident expert on all things associated with Fairy Gardens. She instructs participants on how to choose the correct plants, how to landscape the container, and how to keep it healthy with correct watering.

Laurie retired from teaching in 2007 and now gets to spend more time with her family, including her husband of 48 years, 2 daughters and 2 son-in-laws, and 4 grandchildren. You may not suspect it, but Laurie was a bass guitar player in a rock band while in college and through her early years of marriage. Nowadays she helps her grandson with his drum lessons. Whether leading  a gardening class or passing along stories about Castle history, Laurie is a born teacher who inspires and educates us all daily.

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