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HILLSVILLE — Carroll County’s Teacher of the Year made a career change in her early 40s, moving from business to the world of education.
Connie Reece, teacher of eighth grade math and algebra at Carroll Middle School, said she wishes she had the foresight to become a teacher earlier in life.
After leaving her job as customer services and prototype manager at brake maker TMD Friction in Dublin, Reece has taught in Carroll County for nine years.
“I wish I’d done it sooner,” she said. “I love it.”
She feels fortunate to be able to make a difference in the lives of students.
“The opportunity to share how education can better your life — because it has mine,” Reece said, shortly after receiving her bouquet of flowers and award from schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship in her classroom Friday morning.
“I’d like to thank my parents and all my peers that I work with,” she said, after the initial surprise of several administrators and central office workers coming into her room.
“I’m very excited and honored. We have a lot of great teachers in Carroll County.”
When first graduating from high school, college was not immediately an option, according to Reece’s statement. Her family’s expectations involved her landing a good job with a good income and benefits after getting out of school.
Reece went on to earn her masters from Radford and her masters from Old Dominion University, after working in retail and then in the office of a manufacturing facility.
“It was there that my supervisor saw potential in a young girl and encouraged me to take classes that would allow me to take on more responsibilities while offering better opportunities for advancement and compensation,” Reece said.
Working full time, Reece would enroll in one course at a time.
“One class led to another and the renewed desire to obtain a degree, which I was able to do while working full time and taking on an increase class load over several years,” she said. “Some 25 years later, my education gave me the opportunity to pursue a new, more personally rewarding career, as I finally arrived in the teaching profession.”
Reece wants to do everything within her power to help her students understand the importance of education for their future, encourage a love of learning in them and instill a desire for them to strive for success in life.
To do this, Reece shared with her classes how she struggled to become a good reader, to continue her education and her goal to become a teacher.
She encourages her students to share about themselves in class. She pays attention to find out how to best connect with them and get them to learn.
Schools’ Personnel Director Jerry King introduced all nine school level teachers of the year at the Carroll County School Board meeting Nov. 12.
He read a quote pulled from each educator’s philosophy of teaching statement.
“Education is a tremendous gift, it is available to everyone and it should be nurtured and cherished,” was the quote from Reece’s portfolio.
“My goal as a public school teacher is to do everything within my power to help my students understand the importance of education for their future, encourage a love of learning new things and instill a desire to strive for success in education and all aspects of their life.”
These quotes are taken from school level teachers of the year portfolios, as read by King:
• Jessica Cochran, Fancy Gap Elementary
“[She] shared that . . . she has a sign in her room that conveys her feelings to her students. The sign reads: ‘When you enter this classroom . . . you are mathematicians, you are surgeons, you are important, you are loved, you are respected, you are a friend and you are the reason I am here!”
• Melina Easter, St. Paul School
“Knowing my students are learning not only the English Standards of Learning, but also more about themselves is exhilarating. My students are my philosophy of education. They are my love, my pursuit of wisdom, and my values personified.”
• James Eaton, Gladesboro Elementary
“As an educator, it is my goal to assist my students with reaching their fullest potential. There is no other reward or feeling that is greater than knowing you are impacting the lives of the future.”
• Jennifer Martin, Laurel Elementary
“Education is at the core of recognizing and developing the potential of all people. I strive to be willing to grow and learn and change, to renew my dedication to my students, and to always believe in their potential.”
• Sabrena Melton, Gladeville Elementary
“I love children. I love their uniqueness, imaginations, and their curiosity. One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students, as I share my own passion for learning with them.”
• Dina Reece, Carroll County High School
“Each day I walk into the classroom my goal is to create an atmosphere where students feel excitement to learn, safe from harm, and free to take chances. I show my students that teaching is the most challenging profession they could undertake, but also, the most rewarding.”
• Liza Sutherland, Oakland Elementary
“My students become family to me. I am not in my job just to make money, but instead to make a difference in their lives. It is always my prayer every day to try to do some good by planting a seed of hope and faith in the world we live in.”
• Brian Fritz, RAE Center
“It takes passion in education, not just for the subject you teach but also for the students in your classroom. I’ve learned that putting the students first and enjoying what you teach allows success to fall right into place.”