BULLHEAD CITY — Sometimes, the career chooses the worker.
Such was the case with Chelsey White, who now teaches first grade at Diamondback Elementary School.
White, studying business at Northern Arizona University, became a kindergarten aide at Coyote Canyon Elementary.
“I fell in love with the kids,” she said. “It was something different every day. It wasn’t a typical office job.”
At that point, White had an epiphany.
“It was more interesting than business,” she said. “I went right back to school for my master’s in education.”
White said her parents approved of her decision, as her father left a corporate career to become a teacher.
Diamondback plays a special role in the family. Not only did White attend the school, but her mother, Kate Larson, was an aide there.
White said she likes to lead her students in hands-on exercises. This year’s group, she said, includes several kinesthetic learners, who grasp concepts through carrying out physical tasks, which plays into her preference.
“Every year changes,” White said. “You have to base your method on the group you have.”
Reading is the most important skill first-graders learn, as next year the children will start reading for information and will be asked to interpret what they read, White said.
They enter her classroom with knowledge of the alphabet and letter sounds. White said bridging that gap is the biggest challenge she faces as an educator.
White said first-graders are kind and forgiving, putting behind them instances in which she has to be tough, such as keeping a child in during recess so he can finish his homework.
“The next day, they’ll still give me a hug,” she said. “They’ll still feel like they’re a part of my family.”
Diamondback Principal Martin Muecke said White takes the time to build strong relationships with her students while at the same time being strict.
“She is very passionate about her career,” Muecke said. “Chelsey promotes her alma mater constantly in her classroom and expects all of her first-grade students to attend college.”
Muecke said White is personable and comes prepared to meetings, and is an expert at the Spalding reading curriculum the primary classrooms use at Diamondback.
“She has been a true team player in coming to Diamondback, and we look forward to many more years of her service,” he said.
The class now is learning about winter holidays around the world, which will end with an assignment on Rhonda Gowler Greene’s “Santa’s Stuck.”
Santa Claus is stuck in a chimney, White said, and each child will write a paragraph about what happens next.
White said things she likes about Diamondback include a helpful and friendly staff and an outlook that pushes children to excel beyond their perceived abilities.
The staff at Diamondback welcomed White immediately as she joined the faculty after starting at Coyote Canyon, she said.
White said variety is among the benefits of her job.
“I come in every morning and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Someone could get sick, or someone could have the best day ever.”