Inspiring students filled with positivity, infectious energy, and love: White Pine Elementary's Teacher of the Year, Kelsey Clark
In a weekly online discussion board for Kelsey Clark’s sixth-grade class, students are asked to respond to a series of questions. One recent question was to list “two things you learned this week.” One student responded, “I learned that I really miss Miss Clark.” Since moving online, Clark’s students miss being physically present for her positivity, infectious energy, and ability to make everyone feel loved. These are just a few of the reasons that she is White Pine Elementary’s Teacher of the Year.
It was always Clark’s calling to be a teacher, though it took her a while to realize it. After graduating from Utah State University with a degree in exercise science, Clark worked as a PE teacher at Summit Elementary for six years. It was then that she was encouraged by her colleagues to get her teaching degree, which she completed in 2014. Clark is currently in her sixth year of teaching and is grateful that she can make a difference in her students’ lives.
White Pine Principal Shellie Healy was Clark’s mentor teacher when she started teaching six years ago. She is now her principal and has loved watching her improve her craft every year. According to Healy, Clark is an integral part of White Pine’s success--through her work on the school culture committee, attendance at Big Mind, Small Mind study sessions, and her contributions to the Teaching with Love and Logic book study.
Healy explained, “Last summer Kelsey presented at the resilience conference at USU by sharing her strategies for building students up and teaching them to believe in themselves. This year she really stepped up to the plate by supporting a long term sub for a little over three months when her colleague was gone with a brain tumor. Several parents of Kelsey’s students, as well as many of her colleagues, nominated her to be our Teacher of the Year, and I couldn’t be more proud!”
As school has shifted to online, Clark is busy hopping and back and forth between being a mom and helping her son, and being a teacher and helping her students. She spends significant time emailing and communicating with her students, and says that she misses them and hopes that they know that she loves them even if they can’t meet together.
“There is something energetic about students,” Clark said. “They give you rejuvenation. You get to see their minds work, and you get to guide them. I feel like that is my calling in life--to let young people know how great they are. I hope they leave my class knowing that they are loved and important.” Frequent visits from former students is a testament to Clark’s success in establishing relationships of love and trust in her classroom.
Not only does Clark influence her students, but her colleagues are also recipients of her love. “Every interaction I have with Kelsey is positive,” one White Pine teacher said. “Despite her extra responsibilities this year, she always has found time to come check on me and ask how I am doing. I love sitting by Kelsey at faculty meetings because she listens to everyone’s perspectives and always thinks of what is going to ultimately help our students. Although I haven’t been able to personally see her teach, I can tell the kind of teacher she is by the way she talks about her students. She has such a strong relationship with each student, which creates such a strong classroom culture.” The colleague concluded, “Kelsey’s positivity and happy energy is what White Pine is all about.”