CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Ashley Pickering, a literacy and special education teacher at Westside Middle School was selected as our February Teacher of the Month.
Pickering is a Westside graduate and has been teaching at the school for the last 8 years.
She wasn't always in the education field. Pickering graduated with a business-marketing degree and landed a job while still enrolled in college but later found the business field wasn't for her.
"I went and talked to a career counselor," Pickering said. "I took lots of surveys and answered questions for hours. Whenever we got done, the number one selection on the top of my thing said I was meant to be a teacher."
In the nomination letter, the parent of one of Pickering's students said Pickering played a big role in her son's improvement in reading.
"Reading is hard," Pickering said. "Having kids who struggle with reading and forcing them to read every night is such a challenge. They already don't feel successful doing it and you're requiring them to do it."
Pickering said she did a lot of research and looked for alternatives to help make reading fun for her students.
"I tease them that I dedicated my life to helping make the world a better place," Pickering said. "Whenever I'm able to make them strong, powerful and smart that I'm helping to make the world a better place a little bit at a time. So, whenever the kids are making progress and exceeding the goals and expectations they set for themselves, I feel I'm making the world better a little bit at a time."
The parent went on to say Pickering also played a big role in comforting the students after their classmate died late last year.
"I love them, I love all of the kids here," Pickering said. "I've had a lot of their brothers, sisters or cousins, I'm friends with their families. I wasn't the only teacher who helped kids find their balance after that happened. I think this entire school did a really good job bringing in counselors and allowing flexibility for mourning and adjusting to something everyone thought was impossible. I have a 7th grade daughter that went to school with him since she was 18 months old. So, I think one reason a lot of kids came to me was because they knew I knew him and loved him. He was a part of my life too, not just theirs. If they can see me cry, suck it up and love them through it, then they can do it too."
Pickering said she encourages her students to work hard towards their goals.
"It's far beyond literacy and teaching them how to read or write," Pickering said. "It's the empowerment that goes along with education. That's awesome!"
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