New College helped new teacher transform her dream into a career

August 21, 2011

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Now that Brittany Byrd has become a teacher, she cannot imagine doing anything else as a career.

Right now, she has no ambitions of becoming a principal or school system administrator. She thinks being in the classroom is her calling.

That calling will begin Thursday when Martinsville Schools start classes for the new school year. Byrd will teach second grade at Patrick Henry Elementary School.

“I want to make a difference in the life of each child I come into contact with,” she said.

That is because some children may not get the love and support at home that they need to succeed in life, she said.

Although she is new to teaching, Byrd, 23, is not new to the classroom. In fact, she has been a familiar face at Patrick Henry for a long time.

She started working there about three years ago as a “paraprofessional” — basically, a teacher’s aide.

As an aide, “you have the opportunity to see how teachers interact with students,” said Pam Heath, superintendent of the Martinsville schools. And, for anyone aiming to pursue a teaching career, “it’s an opportunity to step up to the plate and show you’ve got what it takes to do the job.”

Byrd earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Longwood University through the New College Institute (NCI), which offers local access to courses needed to earn certain degrees conferred by universities across Virginia.

Heath called Byrd “an example of reaping the benefits of having the New College here” in Martinsville.

Byrd did her student teaching at Albert Harris Elementary School. After she earned her degree, she was hired at Patrick Henry to take over a class for a teacher who was promoted within the school system.

The new school year will be her first full year in the classroom as a teacher.

Having taught dance for eight years, Byrd knew she wanted to be a teacher because she enjoys helping young people learn.

Being a teacher is “what I thought it was going to be and more,” she said, reflecting on her experiences.

The most rewarding thing about the job, she added, is “when you have a kid who can’t read and a year later, you look at them and see the progress they have made” toward mastering the skill.

Ensuring that students learn is challenging because different students learn in different ways, according to Byrd.

“If this strategy doesn’t work,” she said hypothetically, “you’ve got to have another one, and another one to back that up” if it does not work.

Byrd has realized that students must be motivated to learn.

As a teacher, “you’ve got to have something to get their attention right off the bat,” such as a hands-on activity, she said. “If you can get their attention, everything else is going to fall into place.”

Students also must be energized to learn, she said. Parents can help by making sure children get enough sleep at night, she added.

Many people do not realize all of the hard work teachers put into their jobs, Byrd said. For instance, their work days often do not end when the last bell rings at school. They frequently have to grade papers and plan lessons after they get home because they are so busy with other tasks at school.

The education profession seems to be constantly becoming more modern, Byrd said. She pointed out that learning no longer just involves “opening a textbook and finding the answer” to a question.

Now, classrooms have interactive technology such as Smart Boards, she said. They are similar to a chalkboard (even though pens are used to write on them), personal computer and projector rolled into one teaching tool.

If she has her way, Byrd will be at Patrick Henry until she retires many years from now.

“It’s awesome,” she said of the school. “We have a great staff here. They have taken me under their wings” and supported her dream of becoming a teacher.

“It would take a whole lot to get me out of here,” she laughed.


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