Laenne has long-standing connections to the Weikart Center’s work: She was part of the original Youth Development Group at HighScope Educational Research Foundation where she co-developed the Weikart Center’s Youth Work Methods workshops and coordinated the validation study of the Youth PQA. She was a field consultant in the early days of projects in Washington and Alaska, while living in the latter. Now based in Michigan, Laenne co-directs the Field Services Team where she oversees internal systems and talent development, offers custom technical assistance to a portfolio of quality improvement systems in cities and states throughout the country – many of which are focused on social and emotional learning, and contributes to product development.
Her most formative experience, she says, was attending the HighScope elementary school: “The key developmental experiences, along with the skills, sense of autonomy and participatory inquiry I developed there, have served me every day of my life.” She now seeks to help others create the same high-quality learning environments she experienced, so youth can nurture their interests through authentic experiences that help them lead fulfilled, meaningful lives.
Laenne received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Resource Policy and Behavior – after studying Italian language, literature, cinema and history in Florence, Italy, with Sarah Lawrence College, and Italian Studies and Educational Studies at Wesleyan University. She has long-time experience in kitchens and dining rooms, where she pursued her penchant for local vegetables and artisanal products and sharing them with people. Laenne has worn many hats in non-profit organizations, from working to protect large-scale ecosystems through communications and grant-writing, to fundraising and staff development for summer outdoor experiential education and student gardening programs for school-age children and youth.