JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Christina Coots, a reading interventionist at University Heights Elementary School in Jonesboro, was selected as our October Teacher of the Month.
Coots has been teaching children in primary school for 20 years.
She said she was inspired to become a reading interventionist after noticing so many children struggling with reading in the classroom.
"I wanted to know more about how to target those deficit areas," Coots said. "Every child has a story and I want to make sure that every child is able to tell that story through reading and writing."
Her experience in the classroom bled into her personal life.
"I have several stories of students that have made me a better teacher, made me be a better person and have influenced the way that I parent my own child," Coots said. "That's what teaching is about. It's not about the money, it's not about the summers off."
Coots said one of the highlights of her career is seeing a student trump a problem they have been working to improve on.
"That's what makes my job," Coots said. "The students come in and they have these deficits whether it's rhyming, identifying beginning sounds or middle sounds. They can come into my classroom and I'll pull the sand out or the magnetic letters out and I see the light bulb come on. There's no amount of money, there's not anything in this world that you could give me in place of the students' light bulb and for them to say I get it!"
Seventeen years ago, Coots was working as a teacher at Westside Elementary School when the shootings happened at the middle school.
She said some of her students from back then contact her today and thank her for protecting them.
"It completely changed my career," Coots said. "That was a time our safety net was taken away so we had to find strength in each other and in our students. All I could provide was a hug, a pat on the back or a smile when we were falling apart ourselves."
Coots said she has grown to have a closer relationship with her students and she does not like for them to come to her class or go home with any negative feelings.
Since that experience, Coots has taken the lead of the school crisis team at University Heights Elementary.
She said she's learned the importance of being there for the students, parents and staff.
Despite working through that traumatic time, Coots said she plans to teach for as long as she can.
"I can't imagine doing anything else besides sitting in a classroom with these students every day," Coots said. "It's about making that child complete and filling in all the gaps. That's why I'll be here forever."
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