Shhhhhh. Don’t tell the kids, but it’s pretty hard to really surprise a teacher. This is one group of people who have heard it all — and they keep coming back for more.
With 29 years of teaching, Shelly Stotts is still delighted each morning when she greets her students.
“I enjoy this level because they are different every day,” she says. “They’re not afraid to ask you questions or tell you, ‘Do you know you have three different colors of hair?’ They’re not afraid to be really truthful, yet they can have fun and settle back down again.”
A Boone native, Stotts earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Iowa State University and also completed a master’s in school guidance from ISU, but has never “used it,” unless you count every single day.
“My counseling degree I use almost every single day, especially in the past few years,” she says.
And those who know her best know how much she cares about the kids.
“My late husband told me ‘You can’t go in to counseling (full-time) because you get too involved in those two or three kids’ lives, you can’t help them all,’ ” she recalls.
But that doesn’t stop teachers from trying. In tough economic times, every teacher faces counseling challenges with students.
“It’s not like when we went to school, and we just worried about schoolwork. These kids are worrying about their parents having a job, worrying about food, some of them worry about where they’re going to sleep that night,” she explains.
Despite the challenges that teachers face, Stotts is at home in the classroom and enjoys the rhythm of the school year.
“I like that it’s new every year — there’s a beginning and an end, and it’s totally different year after year,” Stotts notes.
This year, Stotts and fellow fifth grade teachers in Boone are working with a new curriculum that utilizes both ebooks and “consumable books,” or what Baby Boomers used to call “workbooks.”
Stotts teaches five math classes and one English class, and particularly enjoys getting to know the students in her homeroom, with whom she meets twice a day.
“You get to know these kids better, and I think it helps them feel more confident,” she says.