Originally published Jan. 15, 2019 in the Herald-Citizen.

By Jim Herrin

The kindergarteners in Caleb Reese’s Physical Education class were clearly excited as they filed into the gym Friday afternoon.

“Walk quietly to the circle,” he instructed them, but for some, the exuberance could not be contained, and they began running to the designated spot.

“Uh-oh. Strike one,” Reese said as he began explaining the exercises they were going to be doing — including classics like jumping jacks and newer innovations called burpees — while also offering encouragement.

Caleb Reese instructs students in his PE class at Algood Elementary School. Photo by Jim Herrin

“What do I always say?” he asked the class. ” Do your best and forget the rest!”

It’s a philosophy that Reese tries to instill in all of his students, regardless of their level of fitness.

“Do what you can do. Don’t say you can’t. Say you will try. That’s so important,” he said.

Reese is one of 21 building-level Teachers of the Year in Putnam County, who share a love of children.

“I love kids. They are the future,” Reese said. “It’s all about personal educational relationships and seeing students grow and achieve personal goals.”

Caitlyn Maynord of Northeast Elementary School agrees.

“I love seeing students grow and develop each year in my classroom. The progress they make each year is my favorite part of the profession,” she said.

Park View’s Angela Dixon adds, “I chose teaching because bottom line, I adore children. You cannot enjoy this job if you do not have the heart or patience for little minds.”

Stefanie Walker at Baxter Primary School said that feeling hasn’t changed over her 13 years in the classroom.

“I love watching how much children grow academically over the course of a year,” she said. “I also love seeing students learn independence, confidence, perseverance, and courage to try again if at first they do not succeed.”

“I love that every day is a new experience,” said Dixon. “I love that I never know what will happen each school day. Kindergarten, especially, those kiddos say the most hilarious things.”

Cane Creek Elementary’s Teacher of the Year Ashley Reeves said, “I love to see a student’s ‘light bulb’ come on. The smile on their face when they finally understand a hard concept is why I love teaching. I chose to become a teacher because I struggled in school, and I wanted to be a support for students who are like me.”

Brooke Morris of Sycamore Elementary School said family played a part in her career decision.

“My grandpa was a major influence on the reason I chose to go into teaching,” she said. “He was a sixth-grade teacher for many years. When I was young, I saw how he impacted his students’ lives and the relationship he formed with each of his students. It was something special!”

For Becky White at Cornerstone Elementary, her own teachers convinced her to pursue the profession.

“As a student, I had many great teachers.  Some of them touched my life in ways that I could never thank them enough for,” she said. “I knew that my teachers cared, and that meant more to me than any math lesson or reading story. I want to be that inspiration for some child who may be having a hard time.”

Vickie Rector of Jere Whitson Elementary loves the variety of the job.”Every day is different, and there is rarely ever a dull moment,” she said. “It is the best feeling ever to see the pride and feeling of accomplishment a student gets when they learn something new, interesting, and or challenging. Every day you get to touch a little bit of the future.”

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    Teachers of the Year share common philosophy
    Teachers of the year bring common philosophy to their approach with students across a number of subjects, including PE.
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