COTTONWOOD – Quality teachers are “dedicated, caring, and talented.” According to Ben Russel, lead administrator at Verde Christian Academy in Cottonwood, Natalie Rice is a quality teacher.
Russel said that the school’s fifth-year kindergarten teacher “spends much time and energy planning interesting lessons for students.”
“I remember a few weeks back coming in to work early in the morning to get something done,” Russel said. “Who did I find here already preparing for the day – with three kids in tow? Natalie.”
It’s her love of kids that inspired Rice to become an educator in the first place. Once she became a parent, Rice also became involved in foster care.
Though she had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, Rice said that “God really showed me in many ways that he wants me working with children and the path to education was laid out right in front of me.”
Russel said that Rice uses “some very effective tools to inspire students and to keep them actively engaged.” Perhaps her greatest tool, the “refreshing gift of optimism.”
“She is always positive with students and shows care and concern,” Russel said. “She welcomes students into her classroom each day with a choice. Would they prefer to give her a high five, fist bump, hug or handshake? Kids get excited to go into her room each day.”
Besides her love of children, Rice said she “love[s] that this job is never boring.”
“You never know what to expect, and you never know where your group discussions will lead to,” Rice said. “I find out the sweetest and funniest things about kids during circle time. I also love the thought of making a difference in a person’s life, I really believe that teaching is a calling, not just a job.”
Verde Valley Newspapers: Explain your teaching style.
Natalie Rice: “I love a student-centered classroom. In all my lessons, I try as best as I can to give students choice of how they want to learn and let them lead our discussions.
“Student centered classrooms are big on collaboration with peers and cooperative learning where students are still learning from me but, also from and with each other. I am also very big on active participation which means that all students are participating and engaged all the time.”
VVN: Do you have a favorite quote?
Rice: “My goal as a kindergarten teacher is to make all my students know they are loved and treasured. I desire for my classroom to be not only creative and fun, but a safe place to learn. I believe that when a teacher creates a climate of love, safety and respect, great learning will follow.”
VVN: If you were not a teacher, what could you see yourself doing?
Rice: “If I were not a teacher, I would be a professional world traveler or vacationer. I would figure out a way to make money from traveling.”
VVN:Tell us something that not too many people know about you.
Rice: “I have a huge passion for missions and helping children in other countries be able to reach their goals. When my children graduate high school I would love to go to third world countries with a mission of helping as many kids as I can.”
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42