PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - March's Teacher of the Month has been a teacher for five years, but it's the love and strength she has shown through her life that makes her a great teacher, mother, wife, and friend.
Haley Deck is a Paragould native.
"I graduated from ASU, and then I actually taught my first year in Fayetteville, which I absolutely loved," Deck said. "It was amazing, decided I couldn't have babies away from my momma and daddy. So, we came back home to Paragould."
Deck and her husband, Blake, moved back home where she got a job at Greene County Tech Primary.
"The girls that I work with are amazing," Deck said. "I have had awesome groups of parents, families. Every single year I've been blessed. Every year I think I'm going to run out of luck because I get the best families every year. So, I've had a great experience here."
It's in her kindergarten classroom where learning begins.
"From day one, start teaching how to line up," Deck said. "We teach routines, procedures. The way that they grow in kindergarten is incredible."
Deck said she loves watching each student learn at their own pace. She especially enjoys watching the more advanced students take pride in helping their classmates.
"I have a loving class," Deck said. "They really take care of each other."
While she may seem young to some, many that know her story know her wisdom and faith go beyond her age or years in the classroom.
"She is the reason I come to work every single day," Deck said.
The "she" Deck talks about is Finley.
In September 2017, Deck and her family were involved in a car accident in Paragould.
"Everybody that knows me knows that Finley is my life, and I say is because she still is very much a part of my life and she always will be," Deck said.
Deck and her husband, Blake, lost daughter Finley and their unborn baby boy, Sage, that day.
"There are moments that are definitely difficult," Deck said. "That's not even a question, obviously."
Deck took some time off from her classroom.
"She gave us the world in two years," Deck said.
Many wondered, including Deck, if she could come back to the classroom that is still filled with pictures of Finley, but she did come back.
Deck said Finley is the reason she came to school.
"A lot of people that see me at school, they see me laugh and they see me smile, and I am truly happy, and I am truly laughing and smiling when I'm in this moment," Deck said. "It's like our lives are maybe, you can be happy and deeply sad at the same time because I always think of Finley. Even in a happy moment, she's always there in my mind. I mean, I haven't taken down the pictures, I never will."
Deck said she knew it would be tough coming back, but it's also been healing.
"It's almost like being here in the moment with these kids helps me to experience Finley because I know that she's here, and I know that I can be here with them too, and that's all they need is for me to be with them, truly," Deck said. "And so, knowing that has helped me to get through it every single day, and that's what we do. We take it day by day, minute by minute, and we'll continue to do that."
She credits the support of her students, the parents, her work family and the entire community for wrapping their arms around her family.
"I could not begin to thank everyone enough," Deck said. "There's just no way. I mean, right now, I'll tell you all thank you because Blake and I mean that from the bottom of our hearts. You cannot imagine just how much you have encouraged us in our deepest, darkest pain you could ever imagine."
Through it all though, many others have been touched by Deck's love, kindness, and strength.
As we surprised her in her classroom, it was no surprise how many people wanted to share it with her or that her students were the first she shared it with.
Deck said if what happened to her family had to happen, she's glad it happened in Paragould.
"They have cried with me," Deck said. "They have held me up when I needed them to. Their kids have been awesome. God put the right people in my room that I needed."
During every moment of her day as a teacher, Deck is who she is because of what's happened.
"Because of Finley and Sage there has been so much love shown, and I love that," Deck said. "That's what I hang on to."
Deck has been through more than most can imagine, but she continues to smile through it all and take each new day with grace.
"A lot of people know we are expecting our rainbow baby in September of all months, which I'm not surprised," Deck said. "But, at first, that was hard to tell people because I really didn't want it to take away from Finley, but I've realized that it's because of Finley and it always will be. She will always be our first baby. She will always be the one that made us mommy and daddy, and there's nothing that can change that."
Deck's dedication to her classroom and students won't change either.
She said she loves where she is and plans to stay there.