Stuart Kennedy believed he was destined for a career in finance.
After all, it was in his blood. His father was a fourth-generation bank president at a bank in their hometown, and Kennedy decided to follow in his footsteps. He worked in the finance field for a year.
“But,” Kennedy says, “as I got more into it, I decided that that wasn’t my true passion.”
In fact, it was working with kids. He’d had stints as a volunteer coach and summer camp counselor, and enjoyed spending time with children and their unpredictable nature. So, he decided to return to the University of Iowa and received a certification in elementary education.
Kennedy is now in his sixth year of teaching at Waukee Elementary, having spent that entire time with first graders.
It was an age group he hadn’t had experience with, prior to his student teaching. But Kennedy, who was accustomed to working with kids in third to sixth grades, wanted to challenge himself. So, he gave first grade a shot.
Part of the reason why it’s a great age to teach, he says, is their overall attitude and eagerness, which makes his job easier.
Making sure his students are successful in school requires a strong partnership between the teacher, school and parents. He illustrates it this way: Envision a triangle, with those three components forming a strong foundation to support the peak, which is the student.
It encapsulates his teaching philosophy: “A student is limited without the whole.”
But a critical, and most overlooked, part of the equation is regular communication between parents, the school and teacher, he says. It takes a lot more work, but is necessary to ensure that everyone is on the same page, working as a team in the best interest of the child.
Kennedy has tried to strike a balance between being the teacher and being a friend to his students, and the kids understand those boundaries.
So while he has high expectations for his students, they also have a good time learning.
It’s what he enjoys the most about his job: “Just seeing the kids smile and knowing that they’re having fun with their learning. And laughing—you gotta have a sense of humor, especially with kids.”
What do you like best about Mr. Kennedy?
Cam Flug: “That he likes the Broncos.”
Ella Rosic: “That Mr. Kenndy’s favorite player for the Broncos is Peyton Manning.”
Claire Hermann: “That he’s nice.”
Hayden Grisham: “That he throws football bombs to me.”