This is the first in an occasional series following Staci Nix. Today marks the first of an occasional series following first-year teacher Staci Nix as she navigates her new profession, teaching first-graders at World Language Academy.
Staci Nix hated reading when she was in elementary school.
As she embarks on her first year of teaching, she's determined none of her first-graders will feel the same way.
"You want a kid to like reading," said Nix, a language arts and math teacher at World Language Academy. "I'm going to be doing a lot of reading to the kids and getting them interested in books — what are they interested in, what do they want to read."
Her classroom at World Language is designed to help students embrace words and technology. There's a reading corner on one side. Three computers equipped with word games are situated opposite. Brightly colored posters adorn the walls and the bulletin boards are designed to change along with the curriculum.
"Everything in here is for the child, not just for looks," Nix said.
It's that attitude that World Language faculty say makes Nix a perfect fit for the school.
Nix graduated in May from North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega with dual degrees in early childhood education and special education.
She was one of a lucky few students who underwent a yearlong student-teaching experience at World Language during her final year at North Georgia.
"It was a really different experience than what she initially thought. I think it was overall a really good experience for her," said Alli Roberts, the instructional coach at World Language and a North Georgia professor.
Traditional student-teaching begins several weeks into the semester, during which time the student-teacher misses crucial classroom management and organization time, as well as bonding time with the teacher and students in her assigned classroom.
Nix and others who student-taught at World Language began during pre-planning at the beginning of August 2010 and finished their experience this May, right around graduation.
"It was really neat just to be here and see how the beginning of the school year works," Nix said. "I feel 10 times more prepared than if I hadn't had that experience."
Roberts said the moment Nix walked into World Language for her student-teaching, she realized the woman had "that teacher knack."
"She's not going to be one of the ones who shies away from new experiences," Roberts said. "Staci is going to be great. She'll be able to jump right in and I don't think she'll have the trouble of thinking, ‘What am I going to do?'"
Nix knows exactly what she wants to do. She wants to be a teacher who is never forgotten.
"I was in elementary school when I decided I wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I had really good teachers that spent time with me and helped me improve and I wanted to be a teacher like that. A teacher I remember."
Nix will have close to 60 students to remember her.
World Language Academy is set up similar to a middle school, with teachers working in teams. The added challenge is that some teachers instruct in Spanish and others, like Nix, in English as part of the school's language immersion program.
Nix said she's up to the challenge.
"A lot of the students are (English Speakers of Other Languages) but that's so cool because when they're in my class, I'm helping them understand the differences and working through that," she said. "My children that aren't ESOL are able to help those students, but then when they switch and they go to the Spanish classrooms, the roles are reversed."
When it comes to conversing with parents of ESOL students, Nix has little to worry about. Most of the time she will be meeting alongside the other teachers on her team, and if not, she said other teachers are more than willing to translate.
"That's a big thing with this school is we want the child to be proud of their native language," Nix said. "If I have Spanish in my classroom, that's fine. Am I going to understand it? No, but I don't have a problem with it."
World Language Academy Principal David Moody said Nix's maturity and understanding will take her far in her profession.
"We're very impressed with her level of creativity and professionalism," he said. "When we get to work with students all year (like Nix) it's like a yearlong interview. They become part of your staff."
Nix is ready for the year to get started. She wants to make sure each of her students gets the individualized attention and structure she craved while in school.
"I know I can do it, but it's a large number of children to sit down and figure out exactly where they are and not just group them into ‘these are my low kids' and ‘these are my middle kids,'" she said. "That's how these kids get lost. I don't want to leave anyone behind."
Moody can't wait to see what the year has in store for his new instructor.
"She was born to be a teacher," he said. "She'll go above and beyond for these kids — that's where her heart is."