Shelby Joy wants her students to know this school year that they can be anything they want to be.
“I want to give them tools to reach for the stars,” said Joy, a first-year teacher at Radcliff Elementary School.
She said she wants to be a constant in students’ lives and help them achieve their goals.
Joy, a fifth-grade teacher, is one of 110 new teachers in Hardin County Schools. District spokesman John Wright said 10 teaching positions have not been filled as of the first day. Certified retirees are working in those classrooms until teachers are hired, he said.
Elizabethtown Independent Schools has 14 new teachers this year, with T.K. Stone Middle School having the most new hires, district spokeswoman Michelle Motley said.
Autumn Mink is one of the new teachers. She’s teaching sixth-grade math at T.K. Stone this year.
For her first year, Mink said her goals are to build relationships and make the content meaningful.
“I want them to leave the classroom a better person than when they came in,” she said.
Mink and Joy have spent the summer preparing their classrooms and materials for their first year.
Joy attended Elizabethtown High School and recently graduated from the University of Kentucky. She worked over the summer to turn her new room into her dream classroom.
“I’ve taken lots of trips to Walmart and the dollar store,” she said.
She has motivational posters and a place for students to display a piece of work they are most proud of on a weekly basis.
Seeing improvement and growth in students drew her to teaching. Math is her favorite subject to teach because of the moment when a student finally understands a concept.
“The light bulb goes on, and that’s teaching success,” she said.
In her first year, Joy said her goal is for students to enjoy learning and setting up a good classroom environment.
“I can’t imagine a day when I’m not hanging out with students,” she said.
Wednesday marked Amy Key’s 19th first day of teaching. The Morningside Elementary School fifth-grade teacher said she’s always a little nervous on the first day of school.
Despite having several years of experience, Key said she spent many hours preparing her classroom and getting organized for the year. She sent welcome letters to parents, labeled boxes and worked on lesson plans.
“You want to make the classroom inviting and comfortable,” said Key, who also attended Morningside. “You can’t do that in a few hours.”
Key said the first day of school is one of the most important days of the year.
“It sets the tone for the whole year,” she said.
Key said she was looking forward to using new instructional strategies this year.
“I’m also excited about the group of kids I have,” she said.
She said seeing her students for the first time is exciting.
“I love the greeting and then giving them a big hug goodbye,” Key said.
Before students headed through her door at T.K. Stone, Mink said she was “excited but anxious” for the start of the school year.
“I’m so glad I came here,” said Mink, who graduated from Central Hardin High School and Western Kentucky University. “They’ve made me feel so welcome.”
She, too, spent her summer preparing her classroom. To make up for the lack of windows, she used bright colors to decorate.
“I wanted (my classroom) to feel like home,” she said.
When she was in school, Mink said she felt like an outsider and didn’t have a teacher who inspired her to pursue teaching or other professions.
She wants different for her students. She said she will work to find something in each student that they could be when they grow up.
“It takes a little bit of believing in them,” Mink said.