JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – January's Teacher of the Month is a native of St. Clair, Missouri; but, she has called Jonesboro her home for at least ten years. Faith Reeves, 10th grade English and creative writing teacher at Jonesboro High School, has been helping students for eight years. She was one of several teachers nominated Teacher of the Year.
Reeves attended college at Arkansas State University, but teaching runs through her veins. She said she's a 3rd generation educator.
"I get the opportunity, I get the blessing of getting to work with these kids of all of these skill levels and abilities, and try and give them just a little bit more to get them to understand what English 10 is and what they need to be able to do to get into the workforce," said Reeves.
Reeves said some of her classes have approximately 20-25 students, but not all students are the same. Some speak very little English and others have difficult family situations.
"We have a mixture of ability levels. We have students that are ESL, which is English as a second language. We have students that are absolutely brilliant at paper, pen and reading tasks. I have some students in there that can take apart your car engine and put it back together after identifying every problem in it," said Reeves. "For these kids who have this opportunity, who are trying to be adults themselves, I can't yell at them for that. All I can do is support them. Ask them, hey have you tried this? Have you tried this remedy?"
In her nomination letter, a viewer wrote the following.
"She has an instinctive ability to make learning fun, yet be able to control her students without breaking down their naturally exorbitant spirits. Instead of trying to force learning on her students, she motivates them to want to learn. Her enthusiasm is contagious," said Reeves.
Reeves said she's grateful for her support system, citing a particular incident on her first day of school. When she was moving her books and supplies into the classroom, the maintenance crew told her to stop.
"On the first day of school, they hired a sub for me, just in case, so every hour on the hour, the principal would come down, how you doing? I'm okay. We got to the last bell and I went, oh. I went into labor. I went into labor day one," said Reeves. "I've been so blessed. I work with people around who are loving, who are kind, who are supportive, not always monetarily, but with a hug, hey, how are you doing? Hey. What's going on? What can I do to help you?"
Reeves also has a support system from her college years.
"I worked full time going through college, and we laughingly called it the Walmart mafia, because these were people where you worked 40 hours a week through some really difficult situations and circumstances and you stuck together," said Reeves.
Members of her support system have also been there personally. For example, they helped bake her wedding cake and one person hand piped more than 150 flowers onto that cake.
Reeves has also written several grants for her classroom, and those grants have allowed her to obtain several different books for her students to read. She said the variety of materials provides students plenty of options.
"I'm what you call an eclectic. I love science fiction. I love fantasy. I love romance. I love all these things and so my classroom collection of books has everything from Christian fiction to paranormal," said Reeves. "I've written four grants over the past four years to DonorsChoose.org. We've been funded every year. That's taken a lot of work and a lot of support from the community. That's enriched our classroom library. It's given my kids a chance to read more books maybe they wouldn't have access to."
Reeves says every day is different in her classroom. Sometimes students will start learning about one topic, but their teacher will turn it into a life lesson.
"They have given me love. They have given me gray hair. They have given me hugs. They have driven me crazy. I've driven them crazy, but in the end, we've both come, both sides have come out so enriched," said Reeves. "I get these kids a little bit more time. I get them for an hour and a half every other day. An hour and a half every other day, that's more than sometimes your parents will see you at night. So I get to love on them. I get to praise them. I get to ask them, hey what's going on in your life."
But it's not always bright and sunny. Sometimes, Reeves said it's tough to motivate her students. That's where it's vital to be creative and spontaneous.
Reeves, also nicknamed Ms. Ducky, said she has an extensive collection of toy duck figurines. She's gotten 88 ducks since she started teaching.
"Let's go out of the box. I put the rubber duck on top of my head, balanced it there, and continued to teach the rest of the day with the rubber duck on my head," said Reeves. "Since then, students have every year presented me at different times with rubber ducks, I have razorback ducks. I have spa ducks. I have patriotic ducks from Washington DC."
Reeves said she is honored to be January's Teacher of the Month.
"It's just a phenomenal honor. I mean you never teach for everybody to say great job. You teach for the kids to say thank you," said Reeves. "It's really nice in a world where everybody says, oh well the educational system is broken or we need to do this better or different, it's really nice to have a positive reinforcement that says, hey, we're doing it right. We're still loving our kids. We're still educating our kids. We're still giving them what they need to become those citizens, to become those community leaders of our future."