Helping Puerto Rico

For part of my winter break, my sister, mom and I are all going to Puerto Rico. It’s not a vacation. We’re going down to help the side of the island that hasn’t been given as much help because it’s more rural. We’re helping in a medical clinic. My mom and I have done the clinic before in Appalachia. While we were there, we basically helped run people around because neither one of us have any medical training. We also had a friend who was running a lab there and we were checking people in. This organization is phenomenal. It’s called RAM – Remote Area Medical. They took over a fairground and they had every single department there that you’d have in a hospital. They had orthopedics. They had a lab to get tests done. They were giving dental care. They were making eyeglasses on the spot. Now they have a clinic down in Puerto Rico and we’re very excited to help. We’re just going for one week but they’ve had a clinic there for a month.


I want to be a chef

Something I like to do it ride my pit bike. I just got my first pit bike and I rode it the other night and it was really, really fun. So, that’s one of the things I like to do. When I grow up, the job I want to have is that I want to get a doctorate degree in being a chef.

What do you like about cooking?

It’s fun to try new things – new flavors, new seasonings. I actually made something very original. It was chicken, jalapeno peppers, bacon and sausage wrapped all together and then put in the oven. It tasted awesome. I once made sweet chicken that is sweet and then it turns spicy. At first it’s really sweet, and then it starts burning your mouth.

How do you make that?

I don’t tell anyone my recipes.

My favorite time of the year is probably my birthday because I get to celebrate with all my friends and family. I like to think of my birthday – not for cake and presents –  but I like to think of it as spending time with friends and family. Then, part of it is mostly cake.


My mom has inspired me so much

We’re both bus drivers for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I’ve been driving for one year and this is my mom’s 18th year driving. She said to me one time that she feels like every student is on her bus for a reason. Every passenger that she transports to and from school, she has that opportunity to have a positive effect on them in those short 15-minute sessions that they have with each other as well as the parents, the teachers, the principals and all of the different people that she meets. I feel like that really rubbed off on me. We just actually met one of the students who used to ride her bus like 10 years ago and he said, “Oh my gosh Miss K!” That’s what they call her on the bus. It’s heartwarming to me to know that we don’t necessarily have the top job in the school system but we have an effect that people don’t always think of right away. When they think of the school system, they think of the teachers that they’ve had but they might also think of cafeteria staff, custodians and bus drivers. So, it’s fun to remember and think of all the people who work to get students to graduation. That’s the ultimate goal.

My mom has inspired me so much. Every time I think, “I don’t want to do this discussion board or this test,” I think of my mom and how she’s preserved through a lot of years raising me and my three sisters, driving the bus and going to school herself. I do a lot of things to make a lot of people proud, but mostly my mom.

I’m in between my third and fourth year of college and hopefully, one day, I will finish a master’s and start teaching at a middle or high school. I went to Kempsville High School and did Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow, so I have that contract to look forward to, though I’m already in the system as a bus driver.

It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great job. I know I have that calling – I want to be a teacher – but this is something that I’ll always be able to look back on and say, “I started out on the bus.” I’m an expert at stress management and crowd control. There’s nothing in the classroom that’s going to scare me now.

My favorite subject is probably lunch

My favorite subject is probably lunch because I just get to talk and eat.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?

I usually just watch TV, but when I get home my mom tells me I have to do my homework. But when I’m at home on Saturdays and Sundays, I get to play on my iPad. On Monday to Friday, it’s no iPad. And also, I kind of what to be a cook when I grow up. It’s inspired by my dad. He works at Volcano Sushi.

He told me his secret recipe.

Are you going to tell us?


I love being in the library

My kids are adults now. My daughter is a dentist in New York and my son’s teaching in D.C. So whenever I get a chance, I love to just hop in the car and visit them. Both of them are Kellam High School graduates as well as myself. I’m a product of Virginia Beach Schools also. I love working for VB Schools. It’s a great place to raise kids, a great place to teach,  A great place to live. This is year 23 for me. I started working as a fifth-grade teacher at Newtown Elementary. I had 28 fifth-graders. It was a long time ago. I feel really old when I go to the mall and see former students with families now.

What do you like about working in the library?

I love being in the library and just working with the kids. I’m really trying to transform the library – just trying to move it toward that learning commons to try and facilitate that collaboration. We’ve had walls knocked down and shelves removed. We just want to open it all up and create that space to the kids to come in and have an opportunity to collaborate more and bounce ideas around.


I want to be a fighter pilot in the Navy

My two favorite subjects in school are science and math because the teachers make it really fun. And, I want to get a job in the Navy so you need to know math and science. Every day after school, I’ll do this app on my iPad about math to help me even more to go above and beyond. And, also, I think the teachers here are really awesome and they always encourage me and they don’t say: “Hey, you’re not good, just do another subject.” So, that’s why I like Red Mill. Every day after school, after I do my math app, I’ll go fish. And then when my dad comes home, sometimes if I’m struggling with something, I’ll ask him for help.

Where do you fish?

In my backyard. I have a pond in my backyard. I catch little sunfish that I let go. I have caught a catfish. It was really heavy. The pole bent a lot.

You mentioned wanting to go into the Navy. Why are you interested in that?

Because my dad, he went into the Navy. And my grandpa, he didn’t go into the Navy but he’s always told me that he wanted to and he liked that my dad did. I want to be a fighter pilot in the Navy, just like my dad. He flies F/A-18s, and I think he is a good role model.


I like to paint and draw

I like to paint and draw. I’m trying to get into the Salem arts academy. I’m starting to make my portfolio.

Why do you like art and drawing?

I guess it’s just an outlet for creative ideas. It’s just something I’ve always like to do. I do like to use watercolors a lot or I’ll just draw.

Do you want to use art in a job when you’re older?

I would like to but I’m still kind of not sure what I want to do when I get older. But I definitely want to go to the academy and try to expand on that.


Goal setting has made all the difference

It’s my ninth year teaching and I feel like I’ve come in every year feeling like I knew what I was doing. But this year, I feel like everything has really clicked. I think the difference has been what we’ve been doing here at Red Mill with the goal setting with our students. We’ve really tried to get the kids to take initiative of their own learning and to really know what they need to work on, but not only that, also knowing what they can do to get there. So it’s making sure that all these numbers and data that we’re looking at mean something to the kids too, and that they understand: I’m really good at this; I need to work on this. We talk with our kids and they realize: OK, I have this goal and here’s what I can do to work towards it.

We’ve done a lot in my class with setting quarterly goals and setting weekly goals. We’ve really been able to use the 1:1 technology to help us with that because the kids have been keeping track of their goals every week. They’ve been going in and they’ve done some type of reflection every week, they’ve been taking pictures of their goal tracker so they can constantly stay updated. Parents can go in and stay updated with what their child is doing. I just really feel like that’s made a big difference in my teaching and the way that I address things. So any time we introduce a new objective, I’m able to tie that in with how it’s going to help my students to reach their goals. It seems to be making all the difference.

What are examples of the goals that students set?

When we first started out, I really told them that anything you want to work on, you can choose. I want you to choose a goal that’s meaningful to you. They practiced pushups and free throws, things like that. One that really stands out to me, I had a student who said that her goal for the next week was to work on her drawing. When I looked at her reflection she said: I really worked hard on my drawing. I went home every night and tried these different types because I really wanted to get into art club. And I realized that she really understood the correlation between setting a goal, working toward it every night and then reflecting on how she did. And, she got into art club. I felt like that was a really great example of how a 9-year-old’s mind works and how it means something to them.

Now we’ve been able to relate it to school work. Students say: I need to work on my fluency, or summarizing is kind of a weakness for me, here’s what I can do to work toward it. I like that we’ve done both short-term and long-term goals. I think it’s been really helpful for the kids. Those who can’t see long-term yet are able to set those weekly goals: All I have to do is read 20 pages tonight, or whatever it might be. Then they can say: I did it or I didn’t do it. And they’re starting to see: When I do it, I get better and I improve; and when I don’t, I don’t improve. I think that, at this age, to have 9- and 10-year-olds that can do that is pretty amazing.


I like to play sports

I like to play sports: basketball, baseball, football and soccer. It’s fun because I like how everybody is competitive and trying as hard as I do and has a good mindset whether you lose or win.  My favorite subject is math. It’s just easier than all the other subjects. I like to calculate big numbers in my head. I don’t like using calculators.

Any special tricks to calculating big numbers?

Um, pencil and paper.

I want to be a business owner or a chef when I grow up. I want to have my own clothing line and be able to be my own boss instead of somebody else telling me what to do. And cooking just helps me get out what I’m upset about. I can put my feelings into cooking.

Do you have a favorite dish?

Probably burgers or steak.


I like to swim

I like to swim. I’m really good at swimming and I like playing softball. Usually after school every Tuesday and Thursday, I go to Girls on the Run.

I like swimming because I love the water. I like going underwater because I like holding my breath. Swimming is really fun for a lot of reasons but one of them is that it’s healthy for you. And, I really don’t like vegetables so I try to swim a lot. I like running because – well, again, I don’t like vegetables and running is healthy for you. And when I run it usually makes me happy because a lot of my friends go there and they teach me a lot of things about kindness and how do to different things. Like, they taught me how to do cartwheels and other things like that.


I like math, reading and science

I love playing sports. I always play basketball, football and baseball. I love to play video games with my uncle and with my dad. Every weekend we play video games together in the family. And, I like school. I like that I get to learn new things, and I like to be able to see my friends every day. My favorite subjects are math, reading and science. I like science because I like chemical stuff. I love reading because I like knowing new stuff – like, new biographies sometimes I’ll read. I like math because I’m really good at doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.


I want to be a marine biologist

I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up. One of the main things I want to study as a marine biologist are sharks. Oh! Have you seen this thing called a cone snail? It’s a snail that has a spiral…well, it might be better if I draw it for you. Trust me, they have beautiful shells – but there’s a dangerous snail inside. They have this harpoon tooth they can inject into a predator. Have you ever seen a hammerhead shark in an aquarium before? Have you seen how they swim slowly? Cone snails are like that fast. If the fish get away, that’s it! They have no meal.


I like science and economics.

I like science and economics. I feel like I can connect to it. It makes sense to me. Economics is about real-world stuff. At first it was hard, but that’s because I wasn’t paying attention. Now I see that if I don’t pay attention, my grades will reflect that, so I pay attention more and he makes it fun. We do a lot of projects so we can connect to it more.

I want to graduate with an advanced diploma and go to Bethune-Cookman University and graduate with a doctorate in dentistry and become an orthodontist. I’m really thankful for teachers because without them, no one could be anything.

Outside of school, I work with my dad and this camp called F.A.C.T. It’s a camp for kids with autism. I work there almost every weekend. I been working there for five years now. Before, I was a really angry person, and working with the kids helped me calm down and realize I don’t have to get mad over everything. It’s taught me patience and real-world experience. It makes me feel like I’m a better person.


Fixing the world

I’m thankful for my family because they are nice and they help me if I need help.

I’m thankful for what’s around me because sometimes what’s around you is not very good, but what’s around me is usually positive and it’s usually good. There are some things I wish I could change, like, our world without the pollution and fixing the world. Some people think it’s fine how it is. I wish I could fix it sometimes because it should be more green without all the pollution.


Living life to the fullest

I’ve been at Tallwood Elementary for two years, 20 years total in the system. I started at Cox High School and was there for over 15 years, then I opened up the new Kellam.

What do you like about your work?

Everything! I think, meeting new people because you’re here more than you are at home. It’s like family more than anything. Also, I like the kids because my kids are grown. They’re away in college. So, you still take that responsibility of being a mother as you work and you see a child and you can tell there is something wrong. For me, I love the kids here more than anything.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

I cannot complain about anything. When it comes to living, just living life to the fullest. Just reaching your stars. Anything you want out there – your destiny, go get it! I think I put that a lot into my kids: Don’t say what you can’t do, just try. Try and you can.


I’m thankful for my friends and family

I’m thankful for my friends and family because whenever I’m sad or something, they’re always there to support me and make me happy. They’re really nice and lovable.

I’m thankful to have good friends because I don’t want bad friends that do something bad and then say I did it. Whenever I see things that are not good, I go and tell someone just so nobody gets hurt. I don’t like get when animals get hurt because it’s sad, and I think everybody should be nice to each other.


I’m thankful for the environment at this school

This year I’m finding myself to be significantly more motivated in my classes than I was in the past, mostly because the teachers that are teaching me now, I can tell how passionate they are about what they are teaching. For example, my history teacher, she loves history. She breathes it and you can tell when she teaches that this is something that she loves to do. So, when I know that about a teacher, it makes me work hard. I think this is the first time I’ve had an English teacher that I knew loved to read and loved to examine literature. English is probably my favorite subject so to me, that was important. When she speaks, I can tell she’s talking about a book that she admires the author of and she’s done the legwork. It’s not like she’s teaching me something out of a PowerPoint. She’s telling me how she’s feeling about something, which I really, really appreciate, especially as I get older.

Another thing this year, my brother is an elementary school teacher who is a first-year, first-grade teacher. I love seeing how he cares about his students and that’s given me a very different perspective. He thinks about everything and he’s always thinking about his kids. Just hearing him talk about it gives me a lot of respect for what my teachers are doing.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

I’m thankful for the environment at this school. I’m thankful that we have the type of environment where students are interested in other students and are interested in what you are doing. I can have a conversation with pretty much anyone in the hallway, which, to me, is important about the environment of a school. It’s the same thing with the teachers and the administrators. At this school, there is this air of approachability. I think that’s important in a school. The purpose of education is supposed to be to raise kids, it’s not so you can pass a class. We’re trying to raise up individuals. I think that the character of a school is more integral to the type of person you become. Because, if I graduate high school with a 2.5 GPA but I’m a hard worker, I’ll do alright. To me, the way a school shapes the character of a student is really important. At Princess Anne, we definitely do that. I do a lot with student government because I want to do whatever we need to do to improve, because I know I want my little sister to come through and have an ever better experience than me.


I want to be a video game designer

I want to be a video game designer. I love video games. I like when they are not boring and you can explore. Like this game I have called Super Mario Odyssey, you have missions but you can really just explore if you want to.

What kind of game are you going to design?

What could I do? Hmmm. People would be able to explore and also, I would sort of do something like Super Mario Odyssey. You don’t have lives in that game. Your lives run off of coins, so if you have zero coins and you die, it’s game over. When you start the game out, I would start everybody with like 400 coins. I’m thinking about making a bunch of scenes look like a bunch of states with different climates and stuff. My game is probably going to revolve a bunch around Super Mario Odyssey, kind of like Super Mario Odyssey 2. That hasn’t come out yet but that’s what my game is going to be like.



I’m thankful for my sister

I’m thankful for my sister. She helps me and we just play together even though she is way older than me. I feel like we bond. She helped me find art, which is my favorite subject because I feel like you can express things with art that you can’t express through words. But, I do like writing. I always have my nose in a book. I like Greek mythology and stuff like. I’m a realist so I don’t really believe in too much, but it’s fun to think about it.

I’m thankful for the people around me because they are accepting. I’m still new – this is my first year here. So, it’s fun adapting. Of course I miss my old school, but I’m thankful for my friends who actually became my friends here.


I love photography

I got into the school division six years ago. I started as a sub. I enjoy myself here. I love working with the kids and the staff is great, and I have a knack for neatness, cleaning.

I’m a photographer as well. I do freelance work on the weekends – weddings, portraits, family gatherings, senior pictures, events, whatever it calls for. I’ve been doing that since mid-80s. I love it.

I’ve always had a thing for art, ever since elementary school. Pencil drawing, paint, whatever. I like going to exhibits. There’s just something about art that relaxes me. It’s been with me all this time. Photography is art as well. A lot of people are like, ‘You’ve been doing that a long time. Don’t you get tired of it?’ You don’t get tired of something you enjoy doing. You really don’t. This is my rim, this is my zone, and this is what I’m going to do.

If I’m not in here, I’m doing photography. That’s just my life – here and photography. It’s to the point where I can balance the two. I work throughout the day and photography is my weekend thing. I truly do love the kids and the staff here. They make things welcoming. I adore the kids. I keep them laughing. I see a sad face, I try to give a little warmth to them. I tell them, ‘It’s going to be all right. Just get through the day.’ If I see them later, I’ll check on them again just to make sure they’re OK.


I’m thankful for the good grades I have right now

I’m thankful for the good grades I have right now. I work really hard but I don’t try to pressure myself where I don’t have time for others or myself. I have As and Bs right now. I have pretty fun classes and I like my teachers a lot.

What do you like about your teachers?

They’re able to make things easier to understand and explain things more on my age level. They also are able to make things funny.

I’m in VTFT, which is Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow, and she’s a very supportive teacher and she helps us a lot. She lets us tell her our problems and our peaks and valleys of the week, and we also get to go see other schools, which is really fun.

I do gymnastics. We just started last week. It’s really fun to exercise because I’ve been a dancer for the last 12 years. I like that and the coach is really nice and she helps us a lot. I love beam the most and I like vault. Those are my main events and I’m trying to work on bars and floor.

Isn’t the beam scary?

I just like balancing and walking. It’s fun. You really just think about be in your own bubble and don’t mind other people. Sometimes we listen to music and I just go with the music on the beam.


I’ve worked with good people

My last day is Friday. I have 40-and-a-half years; I was hired in August 1977. I was at Plaza Junior High for two years teaching math and coaching basketball. Then I went to Kempsville High for nine years teaching math and coaching basketball. Then when I started in administration, I was at Bayside Junior High for four years. I went back to Kempsville as an assistant principal for nine years. I went to Salem and was there for like two years and nine weeks because it was after the first nine weeks that I came here. It was called Safe Schools and Risk Management. It was a new position.

What will you miss?

The relationships with the people. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had a bad boss. For the last 14 years I’ve had John Kalocay and Dale Holt. You couldn’t ask for two better people. I spent nine years with Lou Tonelson. I’ve worked with some really good people – Jobynia Caldwell, and Don Harvey was great to work for when I was new to teach you the ropes. Don Stowers was at Bayside. I was fortunate because I worked with good people. One thing I learned when I left Kempsville teaching – I was concerned going into administration and how things would change and thinking that I had great people at Kempsville and that was the only school with great people – you realize that one of the obvious strengths of the school system is the quality of the people. You have really good people across the board at every school. I think that’s what is going to sustain the school system and make it the premier school system.

The one thing I worry about for people, the biggest change I’ve seen, is the technology and your availability. You never get away from work, which I think is – I don’t care what anybody says, it’s not good for you; you need downtime. I think that’s one thing I worry about for administrators, you’re never away from things. And more so for the kids, they never get away from the device. For the brain to regenerate, they need more downtime. And if they don’t get that, it’s really going to impact these kids.

What’s next for you?

I knew I couldn’t sit home. I’d lose my mind. I’m used to working a lot of hours and doing things. I knew I had to do something. This job that I ran across is as a contract worker as a background investigator. I’m hoping I can make a go of it to keep me busy. It will be less hours and I can get myself in better shape. I can sleep better.

Are you glad you chose a career in education?

I wouldn’t trade it. It’d be nice to have more money. At Kempsville I had great classes and I had some really great kids to coach. That was something I will never forget. The whole experience at Bayside was another great experience – again, good kids. Salem was a great experience. The people were so friendly, the math department accepted me right away and took me under their wing. But especially the coaching piece and the players you worked with. I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.


I love helping out my grandmother

I would like to either be a hairstylist or teacher. I love hair. My mom always wonders how I can just throw up my hair and it turns out to be a really pretty bun. And, I have school stuff in my room.

What kind of teacher would you be?

I would be a friendly teacher and a nice person.

What else do you like to do?

I really love helping my grandmother out. She lives in Williamsburg. I like helping her with cleaning at her house and I like helping her cook.

And I like how one time me and my dad went out on a date for my birthday party. We went shoe shopping.


I’m a career switcher

I’m a career switcher. My degree is in criminal justice. I worked in probation and parole and worked with the State Police for a while. I have a law enforcement background. I went back to school and got my teaching license. I needed a schedule that worked for my children. I had a 10 and a 2-year-old at the time. It made sense. It took me three years to do it nights and weekends. I was at Plaza Elementary when I started and my son actually went through Plaza Elementary with me, first through fifth grade. I loved that school. We were a family. The only reason I left Plaza is because it closed.

What do you like about teaching?

The thing I like…when you can see that light bulb go on with kids. Or when the kid, especially working with gifted kids now, when things are happening and they have a thought or a connection or they realize something and everybody else goes, “What?” Then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I never thought of it that way.” I like those moments where I can see that little spark happening. Or the kid who, all of a sudden, something just hits them and they can hardly stand themselves – forget raising my hand, I just have to say it! I love those moments. They’re so excited.


I like to help people

I like to help people. A lot of people, they don’t have what other kids have. It just makes me sad that I can see that, so I want to stop that and help kids around the world and get everybody a home.

 What are some ways you are helping people now?

I recycle and if I see somebody on the side of the road, I let whoever is driving know and then I ask if we can pullover some we can give them some money. And also, once when I was on my way to get food, we say this guy and we told him to wait right there and we picked him up some food. Also there was another homeless guy and we gave him a ride where he needed to go.


The brain is really fascinating

I’m interested in medicine. I’m thinking along the lines of neuroscience. Before, I was just thinking about chemistry and biology – maybe one of those two. But then I took AP Psychology with Mrs. Mowery and she made it really fun and engaging. Most of the classes, you know, you’re learning, but she made it really engaging, which made it really fun. I don’t want to be psychologist or anything, but I want to do something with the brain because the brain is really fascinating.

I don’t know how deep I want to go because it’s a lot of schooling. We just had a speaker and he was a neurologist and he said he’s been in school for a while. I don’t want to be in school for that long, but neurology is what I’m thinking about now.