Natalie Ochs is a renaissance woman of sorts. As a fifth grade teacher and grade chair at Rocky Plains Elementary School, Ochs possesses a doctorate in curriculum development, has taught in three diversely different environments and has traveled all over the world.
Admittedly, Ochs enjoyed her college experience and said she wasn't ready to leave Auburn University when she graduated, so she spent a year on campus working with the football program and the NCAA.
"But I was excited about teaching and was ready to get into my career," she said.
Ochs started teaching in the Coweta County school system, where she spent one year. But shortly after, her ex-husband received a job opportunity and the couple moved to New York.
Ochs taught for two years in the New York Public School System and said she had to adapt to teaching in an environment so different from Georgia.
"When I moved back and I taught in Atlanta, what I learned up there worked well for me," Ochs said. "When I was in New York, I had to be aggressive. But I could survive in that type of environment because I could stand up for myself."
Ochs said she received plenty of bewildered looks when she first arrived in the Big Apple, but students and parents quickly got used to her southern accent.
Ochs is proud of her southern roots but admits the mentality in New York gave her a refreshing view of they way people interact and go about their daily lives.
"New Yorkers are just people too, but it's different up there," she said "People are just busy and they're going to tell you exactly what they think. But they don't hold grudges like southern people do.
"I love being Southern, but sometimes it's a waste of time and energy when people just don't come out and say what they want."
The two years spent in New York were an experience Ochs said she'll never forget. Looking back at it, she has fond memories and even yearns to return from time-to-time.
"There are times when I miss New York, especially the holidays," she said. "People are so nice. It's like Disney World there."
When she returned to Georgia, she taught in the Atlanta City School System before moving to Newton County in 2003.
Living in New York also fueled an appetite to experience different cultures.
"We travel, travel, travel; we're travel-aholics," she said referring to herself and husband William. "We've been all over Europe. Italy in general, we are just in love with."
Ochs, who is seven months pregnant with her first child, said she almost had the opportunity to move to Geneva, Switzerland.
"Right after I found out I was pregnant, my husband had a job offer and we almost moved," she said. "I would live in another country in a heartbeat. I just think it's good to see the world and get out of a box. Who knows what the future will bring."
With 20 days left in the school year, Ochs' students have taken the Georgia Criterion Reference Competency Test. And while she understands the children are antsy in anticipation of summer, she still has lessons to teach.
"We still have the novel 'Hatchet' to read and I'm really excited about that," she said. "But along with that, we're preparing them more for sixth grade. We've communicated with the sixth grade teachers about things these students should have mastered before they get there."
With the demands of No Child Left Behind, Ochs said school systems are exploring different programs and implementing creative schedules in an attempt to hit on something that works.
Like so many fellow educators, Ochs feels the federally mandated education policy has taken away from several important aspects of educating elementary students.
"We are down to one 30 minute recess a week," she said. "That is just not enough time for these kids. They need to get out and work off some energy. It's amazing to me."
Ochs understands accountability is needed in the school systems. She hopes the new president will rework the NCLB policy to make it more accurately reflect school and teacher performance.
"What's hard is finding a balance of what they want you to do because sometimes the expectations aren't realistic," Ochs said.
In the meantime, Ochs enjoys reading with her students and helping new teachers get their feet wet.
"I see myself teaching for a long time," said Ochs. "I don't know if it's something I'll do until the end of my career. I'd like to teach teachers and I don't know that I'd ever want to get into administration, but you never know."