First-year teacher: Smith goes from grad to grading

Published 5:56 pm Monday, September 7, 2009

Just four months ago, Heather Smith was graduating with the rest of her college classmates at Old Dominion University.

Smith had known since before she ever began college that she wanted to be a teacher. Her senior year in high school, Smith took a class working as a teacher’s aid. As part of her responsibilities, she got to work directly with the students and help with the teacher’s work.

“I’ve always loved kids, but that’s when I fell in love with the idea of teaching,” Smith said.

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After graduating in May, Smith was doing what most college grads do: applying for jobs left and right, and hoping to find the right one.

In late August, she saw an advertisement for a teaching position at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School. She dropped off her resume, and the next day she got a call back from Principal Veleka Gatling asking her for an interview.

Just a week and a half before school started, Smith got her first teaching job as a first grade teacher at Elephant’s Fork.

“I got very lucky,” Smith said. “I’m so glad to be here.”

Smith began work immediately preparing her classroom for her first batch of students, and she recruited her family to help.

“They’ve been in here, hanging things, stapling, sorting books,” Smith said. “It’s been nice.”

She also began instituting a very important organizational system for setting up the room.

“Organization is the key,” she said. “I had all sorts of to-do lists: to do, to buy, to bring to school. They became very important.”

With all the hustle and bustle of getting ready, Smith said she is also excited about being able to teach first grade.

“It’s a big transition year,” Smith said. “First grade is a great grade, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a first grade teacher.”

Smith said she is more excited than nervous for her first day of school.

“I think I’m excited more than anything else,” she said. “I’m really excited to build the relationships with the kids, and I’m just ready to get to meet them.”