For some, teaching runs in the family. That’s certainly the case for Kelly Turner.
Turner, who is entering her 13th year as a teacher in Chireno, credits her family, specifically her mother and grandfather, for instilling a passion for teaching.
Her mother, Kim Boatman, was an educator for 30 years. Turner is keeping the family tradition alive in the halls of Chireno ISD, where her grandfather, Orland Strickland, spent a number of years as superintendent.
“I love coming to my job. I do not wake up in the morning and dread coming to work. I enjoy it,” Turner said.
Turner has taught pre-kindergarten for 12 of her 13 years at Chireno, with one year spent teaching first grade. One of Turner’s favorite things about teaching pre-K is seeing how much the students grow from September to May.
Something that Turner focuses on in class is social and emotional development — how the students act at school and what they do in school, and how that differs from what the students do at home. On the academic side, the kindergarten teachers expect the students to know letters, number recognition and be able to count to 30 among other things.
Pre-K is students’ first glimpse of school, and comfort is a priority, she points out.
“I have to get them comfortable to come in this room. Sometimes that’s hard. So my guiding thing with that is a smile. Even when you don’t feel like it. A smile, a hug and just letting them know that we love them and they’ll be safe.”
Water coloring, shaving cream writing, making puppets and writing in sand are student favorites.
Teaching the youngest group of students can be a daunting and often stressful task. Luckily, she has Jacki Johnson to help out. Johnson is a paraprofessional who helps with pre-K, and the two have built a great working relationship and even have become best friends, Turner said.
“I couldn’t do it without her. She’s awesome,” Turner said.
Being one of the smallest districts in Nacogdoches County, Chireno faculty and staff have to work together to operate successfully. Turner, who has spent her entire teaching tenure at Chireno, and has built a bond with everyone at the district.
“The people (in Chireno) is what I love about this school and everybody can have their bad days, but for the most part, we all get along and we’re all a team,” Turner said. “Everybody on this campus is a team player, All of us— the janitors, the administration, the teachers—I think we all do a good job of working together.”