This month’s winner: Kelly Bergman, Christ Lutheran School
Nominated by: Melissa Eustice
Tell us about your background.
I’m a Minnesota native, I grew up there and went to a local college. When I graduated, that area wasn’t hiring full-time teachers right out of college. You would work part-time and shadow another teacher, or you would leave and get experience somewhere else before coming back. I was young and I didn’t want to share a classroom, so I went looking for jobs in other states. I ended up in Arizona because of a job fair, where I was hired by Mesa Public Schools.
Why did you want to become a teacher?
I was the kind of kid who loved school. When I was in the 6th grade, I had a not-so -great teacher who didn’t really know what to do with me, just because school was so easy for me. There were a couple of boys in the class that really were struggling, and I think the teacher had sort of written them off. So she basically partnered the three of us up, and had me essentially teach them.
I was helping to teach these kids who were my peers, figuring out what they could do, what they needed help in. They ended up getting a B on the next math text and they were so excited. I remember thinking that these kids had way more going on than most teachers realized. I felt like this was a real way that I could make a difference.
Are there methods of teaching that you use that are different than when you started?
I was home for ten years before this job, and teaching practices and ideas change. There are two young girls I work with who are right out of school. One idea they helped me put into practice was helping kids find out what works for them in a classroom. We have kids who work sometimes at a desk, sometimes on the floor with the clipboard. I don’t know that I would’ve thought of that.
Obviously, they have to be on task, and there a lot of times where we need everyone at their desks. But there are other times when they can do what they need to in order to focus. I also think it is important for them to figure out what is helpful for them. I ask them: stop and think. Is this a good place for me to work? Is it hard for me to focus when I’m in this position? They’re learning how to effectively work and also how to advocate for themselves.
What do you enjoy about teaching second graders?
It is a fun age group because they still love their teachers and love school. They’re usually happy and cheerful. Also, they’re still really physical and I think sometimes we can forget that. They are still little children. Of course, we want to challenge and push our kids, but I think there’s also times to stop and appreciate that these are still very young children.
— By Nick Smith