Follow Me: Teachers are Leaders

Photo of the wall of a classroom at QLE.

Teachers at Quitman School District “officially” return or report for the first time to their classrooms on August 1st, but an early morning visit to Quitman Lower Elementary catches three teachers attempting to get an early start on the preparations required for welcoming a room full of children to a new school year.

First-grade teacher Toni Dikes already knows what she is expecting. Amazing work.

Toni Dikes prepares for the amazing work she knows is coming.

She arrived at 6:30 this morning, and she smiles when she says, “This is the greatest work on earth. I have literally changed my room every year. Some people think I have a problem, but I have to get my room ready. I’m obsessed with what I do.”

Nikki Reeves sorts books in her 2nd grade classroom.

“We’re border hoarders,” second-grade teacher Nikki Reeves laughs when she describes the excitement both she and Dikes share when they receive a new package of classroom decorations.

“On August 1st they will have us in meetings and all that good stuff so we won’t have time to do all of this. I’ve been working in here for a couple of weeks. I’ll be making cupcakes and throwing a mini-party for my parents and my kids during Open House on August 3rd. That’s the first impression that the kids and parents have of you. You want them to feel comfortable. Parents will bring supplies, and the next couple of days we’ll spend organizing supplies, putting the kids names on things, and just getting ready for the first day of school.”

Stephanie Gulley sits at her desk in her new 2nd grade classroom at QLE.

Fourteen-year teaching veteran Stephanie Gulley will be teaching 2nd-grade and is looking forward to her first year at Quitman Lower Elementary. Like Dikes and Reeves, she has already been preparing.

“I started last week, and I am amazed by the progress. I enjoy what I do so it is not work. It has never been work for me. I’m excited to meet my kids. A kid is going to be a kid, and if you remember when you were a kid, it puts it in perspective. You want a kid to be a kid, and you want them to remember these moments when they get our age. Also, I enjoy building relationships with their parents. That’s the package. Regardless if we are agreeing or disagreeing, the kids are what we have in common. We come together on the goals. Teaching is about interpersonal relationships. It’s not me. It’s us, and the reward is going to be magnificent. When the kids leave me, they don’t need me. They will leave me with hope and the confidence that they can achieve what’s in the future.”