Clarkdale Middle School teacher Kayla Weir firmly believes teaching is more than a profession. It’s a higher calling – a calling she received from God at the age of 15.
“I would tell anyone wanting to teach to pray about it first because I truly feel like teaching is a calling,” said Weir, who's been an educator for 10 years. “Some people go into it thinking it is a great idea because they will have summers off. That is a wonderful perk, I won’t lie about it.
“Of course it’s nice to be home with my children when they are out of school, but there is a lot of work that goes on in the background that people don’t necessarily see, especially if you want to excel and push your students to do very well.”
Because of her commitment and dedication to the profession, Weir was surprised Wednesday to learn she had been chosen the Golden Apple teacher of the month for January. Weir, who teaches eighth-grade math, Algebra 1, and seventh grade Pre-Algebra, said winning the award was quite a shock.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like I do anything different than anyone else, and to think someone would recognize me for going above and beyond – I think I do just what every good teacher does,” Weir said. “I love what I do every day.”
Joe Walton, Clarkdale Middle School principal said in his 20 years of administration he has never seen a better eighth-grade teacher than Kayla Weir.
“From before school tutoring to everyday classroom personal attention, Mrs. Weir’s students are prepared for high school upon completion,” Walton said.
Eighth graders Carrie Campbell and Madison Culpepper both said their teacher is very deserving of the award.
“Mrs. Weir is an amazing teacher, and has a way of making everyone understand the material,” Campbell said. “If a particular student is struggling she is more than happy to work with them.
“No one ever knows if she is having a bad day because she doesn’t stop smiling.”
“Mrs. Weir is very kind, and always lets us see her whenever we need help,” Culpepper said. “She is very rewarding with Mardi-Gras beads if we pass a quiz. She is the best teacher ever."
Weir whose father is a Clarkdale alumnus, along with herself, her husband, and now her kids, considers Clarkdale a family place. The school where she said a lot of good teachers inspired her.
“They did a little bit extra, making sure everybody in the room felt like they were a part of what was going on,” Weir said. “I didn’t struggle a whole lot in school, so I was able to, from an early age, work with the people that were around me in the classroom. I just kinda felt like that’s what God put in my path to do – something that he made me good at.
“Some of them still teach here in high school and it has been really neat to come on board on the same campus they are on and teach with them.”
Weir said she never wants a student in her classroom to feel like they are not good enough – by helping them to achieve a sense of worth.
“I try to set them up in a situation where everyone can find a way to be successful because I really think that we have some that sometimes fall through the cracks,” Weir said. “I try to do that and make sure everybody feels loved and respected – that’s just a big part of my classroom culture.
“It’s my ultimate goal to make them know they are good enough and valued, and know they have worth.”
The students' questions are one of the most interesting aspects of teaching, Weir said.
“When you have that kid that has shown no interest in math and all of a sudden they make a comment, and in that moment you realize they really were paying attention,” she said. “I really like those moments, and I like those moments when I see the students getting down into the nitty-gritty of what I asked them to do.
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“Watching them work together to find the solution, understanding what it means to work together as a team collaborating with each other.”
There are people who make twice as much money as I do at their jobs every day, but I bet they don’t go home and feel fulfilled every single day, and they don’t wake up in the morning and feel like they are truly blessed to be in that classroom with those students making a difference.
“I can honestly say there’s not a day that I wake up that I am not excited about coming to school,” she said. “I just truly feel that I am blessed to be here and that this is where I am supposed to be.”
The Golden Apple Award
Weir received a Golden Apple Teacher of the Month Certificate, a $300 cash award, and a $1,000 continuing education voucher for MSU-Meridian, and $1,300 in school supplies.
The presenting sponsor for the month of January was Mississippi Power.
The eight monthly winners will be invited to the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year banquet and that winner will receive a special award on stage (The Meridian Star Article), a custom-made Teacher of the Year Trophy, $2,500 cash to be used at their discretion and a $2,500 scholarship to be awarded to a deserving student in the teacher’s name.
Meridian Community College is the title sponsor. Golden Apple Award Partners in Education key sponsors are The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations Bounce TV and MeTV of Meridian, EMEPA, Mississippi Power, Citizens National Bank, Mississippi State University-Meridian, Avery Products, Woodstock Furniture. Participating sponsors are Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling, Labiche Jewelers, and College Savings Mississippi.
How to nominate an educator
Nominations for the monthly Golden Apple Award can be submitted by parents, faculty, or community members as well as past or present students. Candidates must be a current, full-time, faculty member in Pre-K through 12th grade (public or private) and work in the following counties: Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper, Clarke, and Newton in Mississippi; and Choctaw and Sumter in Alabama.
The nomination process consists of an essay (no more than 500 words) detailing why the person should be considered for the award. Nomination details and an entry form are available online at www.goldenappleawards.com.