Hart County Middle School Teacher of the Year
Hart County Middle School Teacher of the Year: Kelley Gaines
Where are you from and where did you go to school?
I grew up in Jonesboro, Ga., and graduated from Riverdale High School in 1991. I received my undergraduate degree in Middle Grades education in 1996 from Mercer University. Then, I received my Master’s degree in Educational Technology and Online Learning from Liberty University in 2016.
How long have you been teaching, and in what areas have you taught? Where all have you taught?
This is my 19th year of teaching. I taught 8th grade science for 13 years (at Riverdale Middle, Burney Harris Lyons Middle, Banks County Middle School and Hart County Middle). This is my 6th year of teaching Engineering and 5th year teaching the HS Video Production course to 8th graders at Hart County Middle School.
What was your motivation for becoming a teacher?
Teaching was not my first career choice; I always dreamed of being a NASA astronaut. I enrolled at Georgia Tech and soon realized that while I loved math and science and was really good at those subjects, but Georgia Tech life was not for me. After almost two years of trying to determine what my future held while attending our local community college, and my first year at Mercer, I kept coming back to what I had done as a high school student: teaching children in VBS and in my mom’s daycare business. I could not drop the feeling that I was supposed to teach. My calling became abundantly clear in that time and I answered the call to teach. Just like a pastor answers the call to preach, I personally believe that the Lord calls some of his followers to teach, so here I am, doing what I was put here to do.
What is your favorite subject to teach?
I absolutely love teaching Engineering. I love giving students the opportunities to problem solve and put their creative skills to the test. Students have so many opportunities to explore for their future and Engineering gives me the chance to open their eyes to those possibilities.
When not in the classroom, what are your hobbies or what do you like to do in your free time?
I love to travel with my family. We often can be found at Disney on our breaks, but we also love road trips to baseball and football stadiums, and state capitols.
Can you tell us about a moment in your teacher career that really hit home and made you proud to be a teacher?
It’s hard to narrow down 19 years of teaching to one moment. Each year brings proud moments, from the state and national competition winners with TSA, to the times those difficult students finally realize that my pushing them is really for their benefit. I suppose the most memorable for me was the first time one of my former students contacted me to tell me she was going to be a middle school science teacher and that I made an impact in her life to pursue teaching. That same student is now a colleague of mine here at HCMS!
If you could give advice to a first year teacher, what would you tell them?
Set high expectations from day one, both of yourself and of your students. Students may not like it, but they will be better for it and you will certainly have a positive impact on their future success.
What is the best advice you were ever given about being an educator?
The best advice I ever received about being an educator actually came from my mentor teacher, Ruby Worthy, in my second year as a teacher. She said never be afraid to speak up for your students when you know they need it.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I love the opportunities I have to make a difference in the lives of students every day. Being an educator is more about being a mentor than a teacher. Some students do not have positive influences in their lives. My goal is to be that one person every day they can count on.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll hopefully still be serving Hart County students and my community in my last few years of teaching.
Tell us about your family.
I have been married for 22 years to HS Video Production and Graphic Design teacher, Greg Gaines. We have three girls: Savannah, a senior at HCHS; Cassidy, an 8th grader at HCMS; and Karlee, a 3rd grader at HES.
If you could travel anywhere for a week, where would you go and why?
I would love to go on an Adventures by Disney trip to Greece.
What is your favorite part about Hart County?
I love the small town atmosphere and the sense of community pride found here. I am happy to be able to know members of my community on a personal level. That doesn’t happen in a large town like Jonesboro!