Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series on North Okaloosa County Teachers of the Year.
CRESTVIEW — Northwood Elementary School kindergarten teacher Glenda Edwards said Friday was easy, contrasted with some days.
On field day, she was down to eight students from her usual 17. Many parents check their children out of school after the day's outdoor activities.
For 34 years, Edwards has been building strong minds and strong bodies, having been a physical education teacher for 26 years. She's taught kindergarten at Northwood for nine years.
Edwards, originally from Ohio, and her husband, Owen, who is retired from the Army, settled in Crestview after falling in love with the area on frequent vacations to the Emerald Coast.
Being chosen by her peers as Northwood's Teacher of the Year initially surprised Edwards.
"I kept thinking, 'Who'd vote for me?'" she said.
She said that teaching kindergarten involves more than the proverbial three R's — reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic.
It also requires teaching kids how to be students.
"I think I have high expectations and I set high standards both in academics and behavior," Edwards said. "I'm very disciplined and structured, but we also dance and sing, and I think the two go well together."
Many students arrive in her class with minimal or no academic skills, she said, "but at the end of the year, they're reading and writing. One after the other, you see their light bulbs go on. It is so exciting to see them progressing."
The hardest part of the job is her inability to affect what happens when her students go home for the day.
"You try to instill something in them, but a lot of them go home to a situation that negates what you taught," Edwards said. "I don't know if it's frustrating or heartbreaking."
One student arrived in Edwards' class with no prior school experience at all. He was already older than his classmates.
"He had trouble with the structure," Edwards said. "I think they want you to tell them what to do because they don't know what to do. They don't have the skill sets to make their own decisions."
Touching the heart
Edwards will be eligible to retire in a year or two, but she first wants to finish teaching several families' youngest children who will soon enter kindergarten. She has already taught their older siblings.
"I don't want to 'retire' retire," she said. "But I would like to do something that is not so all-consuming. I want to continue working with children, but without all the administration part."
She sees herself teaching children’s reading skills, but also having time to play golf, a favorite sport. However, even on the links, Edwards said she would always remember the children who've touched her heart.
"I had a little girl tell me the other day, 'I love you so much my heart feels like a rainbow,''' Edwards said. “It takes your breath away. They're all so sweet. They're all so innocent right now."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.