Why.

Why do you keep teaching?

Sarah Kirchoff Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom

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Back in 1998 when I graduated from Arizona State University, (Go Devils) I was often asked, “Why do you want to become a teacher?” The easy answer was always that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. In 2020, I was recognized as the Teacher of the Year at my school. As a part of the process to become Teacher of the Year for my district, (which I did not get) I had to be interviewed by a panel of district interviewers. One of the questions that was asked was, “Why did you want to become a teacher?” I feel like the questions should have been, “Why do you continue teaching?” The answer I gave back in 1998 was how I truly felt, at that time, when I was 22 and eager to start my career. My answer would be different now that I am a “seasoned” teacher. Yes, I still want to make a difference in the lives of children, but now I feel like I also want to make a difference to my colleagues, my admin, student teaching candidates, and to the community in which I work. Over time, I have always been dedicated to my students, but I have also come to realize that I can have a much broader impact on more than just my students. I have been in various teacher leader positions throughout my teaching career. I am team-lead for my grade level, I am on the school site council, I am a mentor teacher and I have had several student teaching candidates in the recent past. I feel as though my role as a teacher leader affects more students at my school than my role as a kindergarten teacher. For example, when creating a mitigation plan for our school when we were returning in person at our site, our admin was asking the leadership team our thoughts about spacing and how our rooms would be put together. I was passionate about some of the restrictions/guidelines for K-2 students. Someone needs to advocate for younger students in classrooms. My suggestions were heard, and part of our mitigation plans, and guidelines included what I advocated for all students. I love teaching kindergarten and my goal remains the same now as it did in 1998. I want to make a difference in the lives of my students. My paradigm has shifted over the years as far as who “my students” are. It’s not just the students in my classroom, it’s ALL students at school. It’s not just for the 23 beating hearts in my classroom each day; it’s for my teammates, my other co-workers, my admin, my mentees, and my community. I don’t just “want” to make a difference anymore. I realize now, with time and experience, that I actually do make a difference. Why do I continue to be an educator? I want to continue to make a difference in the lives of all the people I encounter throughout the year, not just the kids sitting in my class.

 

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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