Spending 40 years in little chairs
Posted: October 12, 2012
The Winchester Star
In 1973, Frederick County Public Schools began teaching kindergarten in the division’s seven elementary schools.
Kathy Elliott was among the batch of a dozen or so fresh faces to take one of the new teaching positions.
Now 61, the southern New Jersey native is the last one standing from that original group of teachers. She’s gone through seven principals and made the transition from blackboards to Smart Boards and notepads to computers, and though she’s not as agile as she once was, her cackling laugh and zany stories haven’t changed.
“I don’t roll around the floor as much as I used to because I can’t get up,” she said with a laugh. “But I still have fun.”
Elliott started at the old Stephens City School with 28 students, but the kindergarten classes were housed in the Stephens City Methodist Church on Main Street. In 1975, Elliott transferred to the newly built Bass-Hoover Elementary School.
Elliott, who works a second job as a shift manager at a Handy Mart, earned her degree in elementary education at Hood College in Maryland before arriving in Stephens City.
One of the reasons for her success and longevity are the real-life stories she tells her students, like the time an angry rooster chased her around her grandma’s yard when she was a girl and bit her on the bottom. The stories usually come with sound effects and goofy facial expressions from Elliott.
“If I can pull something from my life, maybe something they can relate to, then I do,” she said. “You got to be an actor or actress. You got to get into it. Get them involved. Then they start questioning, and all sorts of stuff can come out.”
According to Elliott, students nowadays are more sedentary yet more worldly, but their behavior is relatively unchanged.
“You have children who listen all the time and children who don’t listen all the time,” she said. “Behavior’s pretty much the same. You have to give kids structure until it’s achieved. You can always loosen up, but if you are too loose at the start, you lose them.”
Bass-Hoover Principal Vicki Smith calls Elliott the “resident personality.”
“She keeps me on my toes,” she said. “And that laugh. I’m telling you.”
Through the years, there have been policy and technological changes that Elliott has had to deal with, but she keeps on obliging.
“When all is said and done, she’ll do what you ask of her and do what’s best for the kids,” Smith said. “She may grumble, but she does it.”
Now, with the school division looking to start full-day kindergarten in 2014, Elliott is all in.
“There will be more time to accomplish all the things we have to do plus all the extra goodies you never seem to have time for,” she said.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org