ELK GROVE, CA - "I always wanted to be like my dad," Judy Kelly said. And for the last 36 years she's been doing just that by teaching every grade in elementary school except fourth grade.
"I've been teaching steadily since 1974," Kelly said. "I knew when I was in the third grade I wanted to be a teacher.
After graduating from California State University, Chico, Kelly landed an 18-month teaching assignment in Australia. She stayed for 26 years. Seven years ago she left the land down under for Arlene Hein Elementary School in Elk Grove where she teaches second grade.
"In Australia, we had to basically write our own curriculum. We had outcomes where students were expected to do "X", whatever the outcome might be," Kelly said. "Whereas in Elk Grove, we have specific programs we're expected to follow."
But Kelly said no matter where she is, she loves her job. "I can be feeling really low and when I'm working with children, they make me feel happy."
Kelly said she tries to keep her students happy and engaged as they grow and learn. "I want them to reach their full potential. I know it's there in every child," she said.
Every Friday, Kelly's students switch roles with her and get to be the teacher. They share their culture, funny stories, current events and book reports. Quite often they dress up in their native costumes or as a book character.
Kelly takes her students to Fog Willow Farms in Wilton for a science camp. She said, "We dig for fossils that are created out of plaster. And we make them when we read about fossils."
Her students can also always count on a trip to the theater to see movies, plays or musicals.
Three days a week, Kelly stays after school with students who need a little extra help. "We're working on reading fluency and comprehension. And I have seen that light bulb go on when they finally get it," Kelly laughed.
It's a hectic schedule but Kelly said she's not going to give it up anytime soon. "They do zap a lot of my energy but they also give me a lot of energy, too. So I'm not tired," she said.
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org