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Live Oak teachers prepare for the 1st day of school
Karen Christian and Kenethia Whaley in their pre-K classroom. They both have been teaching in the county for seven years. This is Christian’s first year and Whaley’s fifth year at Live Oak.

When kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, how many actually become the firefighter or astronaut or professional football player they claim destined to become? As one local teacher sticks decorations on her classroom walls, arranges textbooks and clears students’ desks, she is doing exactly that.

Kayla Brand, a first-year teacher, has been collecting the supplies and decorations that breathe life into her classroom at Live Oak Elementary School for seven years.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Brand as she stands ready for a group of fourth-graders to set their backpacks down on Friday. “It’s my dream job.”

Brand said she was bad at math until a math professor at Piedmont College, where she graduated from in 2011, who let students teach a lesson, “and it clicked.” She said fourth grade is an important year in learning because students are taught to multiply and divide.

And she is excited for the new curriculum being taught, she said, in conjunction with Georgia Milestones, the new testing system replacing CRCTs and EOCTs. With those tests, only third- and fifth-graders took a writing assessment, but now every grade has a focus on writing and constructed responses.

“There are times I’m sitting in my car just getting giddy,” Brand said of the days leading up to August 1.

She used to watch her sister get on the school bus at the bottom of the hill they lived on when Brand was four years old and wondered why her sister was so scared to go to school. She would take schoolwork from her older sister’s folder on Fridays to teach her stuffed animals.

Now, she has real school work to assign to real students, along with a certification in special education and an expected master’s degree in teaching by December.

“I want to inspire children to be a life-long learner like me,” Brand said. “It’s hard to put it all into words without talking someone’s ear off for three hours.”

Like big kids themselves

New teachers like Brand are not the only educators ready the first bell to ring on Friday.

Teachers who have been in the Newton County School System for years wasted no time in readying the walls of the halls for them to be filled with shuffling shoes.

Nicole Walker, a kindergarten teacher and 14-year NCSS teacher, said the new writing program has created a bond for all teachers to “work through it together.”

Kimberly Inscho, a kindergarten teacher who has been in the district for 20 years, said she brought all of her books to her classroom to set up a reading area instead of bringing groups of books back and forth according to the theme she was currently teaching.

“New teachers actually came in at a great time because of the new curriculum,” Inscho said. “So we’re all like new teachers.”

New or returning, Ischo said, she and her coworkers have become close as they prepare for the school year. And they all have one thing in common – readiness for the excitement they will see on their students’ faces as they get their own desk for the first time.

Both Ischo and Walker said they’re like big kids themselves.

“I don’t sleep the night before school,” Ischo said, “no matter how long I’ve taught.”