lifelong learning

Keep on Growing!

Sarah Kirchoff Education, Elementary

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Each year, I look at my bookshelf in my classroom and I think to myself, “You know, I should really go through this stuff and get rid of things.” Each year, I always come across my original teaching portfolio from when I was student teaching. Back in 1998, when things weren’t digital, we had to put together an old fashion binder with work samples, our philosophy of teaching, room arrangements, pictures of lessons that we have taught, and a variety of evidence that we did, in fact, deserve a job at your school. We would bring it with us to interviews and proudly show it to a prospective principal. I find it every year and never have the heart to throw it out or to even scan it and save a digital copy. I look back at it every year and reflect on what it was like back then. I remember trying to find the right paper to print it on, trying to find the lesson plans I wanted to showcase. By far, my favorite thing to find is my philosophy of teaching.

“If children feel safe and comfortable in the place they spend most of their day, they can achieve their goals and become lifelong learners.” How has that changed? Am I still that teacher? What have I learned about myself in the last 22 years that may have changed my thoughts or perceptions about my philosophy? Obviously, my perspective has changed over the years. Experience changes your perception. The most important thing that still rings true for me is being a lifelong learner. This is what we are trying to instill in our students, but it resonates with me. We should always try to keep growing personally and professionally, no matter how long we have been teaching. Each year, we are asked to make new professional goals. For some years, taking on a new goal is unattainable. Sometimes, just making it through the school year is the goal. If the time is right in your life, keep growing and learning!

We need to keep growing. We should take new classes, work toward an endorsement, attain advanced degrees, attempt National Board Certification, watch a new webinar or learn about the latest and greatest innovations in education. We all need to keep improving ourselves each year. Being a lifelong learner doesn’t stop when you reach a certain point in your career. I have been teaching for 22 years, and I am still creating new goals for myself each year. A few years back I set a very ambitious goal for myself. I wanted to achieve National Board Certification.

I started the process during my 19th year of teaching. It was an amazing experience. I highly recommend others to work towards this certification. When I achieved National Board Certification in December of 2020, I realized that I am committed to being a lifelong learner. I look back at my philosophy from 1998 and realize, I am still that teacher. It is never too late to keep growing!


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Sarah Kirchoff is a kindergarten teacher in the Higley Unified School District. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education. She began her teaching career way back in August 1999, when everyone was worried about Y2K. She did not even have computers in her classroom at that time! Since then, she has taught first grade for four years, preschool for three years, second grade for two years and kindergarten for twelve years. She has worked for three different school districts during her teaching career. During this time, she has been able to identify which grade she found to be the most enjoyable. Her greatest teaching passion is for kindergarten. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She was teacher of the year at her school in the 2019-2020 school year. Most recently, she became a National Board Certified Teacher as an Early Childhood Generalist in December of 2020. She currently serves on numerous committees at her school including school site council, the instructional leadership team, and the culture and climate team. She is a mentor teacher at her school and has mentored numerous interns and student teaching candidates. When she is not busy with school commitments, she spends time with her family. She has a husband who is also a teacher, and four children. Two of which are students at NAU and two that are in high school. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading books and spending time with family, friends and her two dogs. Young children need a teacher that is always advocating for them, socially, emotionally, and academically. Sarah wants every student she encounters to realize their potential and she is willing to help in any way she can. The impact early childhood educators have on students reaches far beyond their younger years. Sarah wants to leave a positive impact on her students so they can continue to have wonderful educational experiences beyond her classroom.

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