Lakehoma Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, Kelly Bullard, loved kids growing up, but they weren’t the reason she decided to become a teacher. She learned in her introduction to elementary school that it was an unpleasant place. She had an undiagnosed vision problem and first grade was a nightmare. The thought of going to school filled her with an uncommon dread.
Ms. Sheppard, her second grade teacher at Dill City Public Schools, changed everything, Bullard’s outlook, her belief in herself and ultimately, the course of her life.
Bullard started the second grade
sitting at the back of the class, terrified of the days when Ms. Sheppard would
put a poem on the board for the students to copy.
“I couldn’t see the board, but I didn’t know something was wrong with my eyes. I felt insecure. I didn’t want to go to school,” Bullard said. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Bullard said Ms. Sheppard could have labeled her as just some kid who doesn’t know how to do anything.
“Somehow she figured out that I couldn’t see the board and it made me feel so good that she helped me through that,” Bullard said. “And then she read Charolette’s Web to us. I remember sitting there and going to a different world while she read that book. And I thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to read to kids. I want them to go to a different world. I want them to be happy where they are.’ She made me go from not wanting to be at school because I didn’t know what was wrong with me to wanting to go to class and listen to her read to me every day. Ms. Sheppard changed my world.”
There were other teachers in the grades
to follow who also made a difference.
“I had teachers who made that job look like something I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to be that teacher for those kids.”
She graduated from Burns Flat-Dill City
High School in 1996 with class of 33. A family member or two encouraged her to
attend the local vocational-technical school, but Bullard took out student
loans and put herself through college. She ultimately graduated from the
University of Central Oklahoma.
She and her husband were expecting
their first child when she did her student teaching, so after she graduated,
she spent two years substituting.
Her first job was in El Reno teaching
fourth-grade at a year-round school.
“That was a real eye opener because those kids needed the type of teacher I wanted to be,” she said. “So many of them came from bad homes and bad situations. I feel like a lot of what I did was character building.”
She taught there for two years before
taking off a year for her second child. She started in Mustang in 2008 as a
fifth grade teacher at Mustang Trails. She spent four years there, three at
Mustang Elementary and has been at Lakehoma Elementary for three years teaching
English Language Arts for fourth grade.
“I love this grade. I know the content,” she said. “I want them to love reading.”
She admits there are times she has considered changing careers. She said some people think “teaching is teaching,” but changes are imposed or the state’s budget woes make things difficult.
“Just with every career, you have to deal with changes but you still have to find ownership in your class,” she said. “You have to put those factors aside and be here for the kids every day with a smile on your face and show them that you care. A lot of people are seeking different careers and that worries me. Our kids still need good teachers.”
In the end, Bullard stays for the kids,
to be the teacher to them that she needed growing up, to eliminate excuses and
acknowledge their dreams.
“You can’t give kids excuses. If they’re from a bad home home or a bad situation, I still want them to be successful adults. You have to help them find a way to be accountable,” she said. “I want to be here for the kids every day with a smile on my face, and every year there are kids i teach that I hope I have done something positive in their life.”
Bullard is one of 14 Teachers of the
Year for Mustang Schools. A District Teacher of the Year will be announced at a
banquet in March.