When University of Houston-Victoria alumna Blair Kelly first joined a classroom as a student teacher, she wasn’t doing it for recognition but to make sure children were prepared to lead successful lives.
Her hard work and dedication as a student teacher recently earned her the honor of being named an exceptional teacher candidate by the Quest for Quality Teacher Preparation in Texas project. She is one of only 36 student teachers across the state, and the first UHV education student, to receive this recognition.
The project is a collaboration between the Center for Research, Evaluation and Advancement of Teacher Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Its purpose is to highlight exceptional quality in university-based teacher preparation in Texas. Those selected for the award must demonstrate exceptional teaching skills in subject content depth; lesson planning; modifying lesson plans to meet diverse student needs; and creating and maintaining a positive and engaging classroom.
Kelly graduated in May from UHV with a bachelor’s in early childhood education. She won’t be teaching full time this year for personal reasons but plans on teaching second grade science or reading in the future. Kelly said being a mother has changed her outlook on the type of teacher she wants to be.
“I want to have an impact on what children are learning and ensure they are learning necessary skills,” Kelly said. “Whenever possible in student teaching, I tried to integrate different content areas together so students had the chance to see how subjects are interconnected.”
Brooke Sumbera, a second-grade teacher at Rowland Elementary and Kelly’s mentor, wrote in Kelly’s nomination letter that she had observed her growth as a student teacher.
“Blair has the ability to make students feel welcomed and comfortable in their learning environment,” she wrote. “She made sure the students were engaged in what they were learning by using hands-on lessons that were fun for the students and effective in teaching required skills.”
Kelly said it isn’t just academics that are important to teach in a classroom.
“My teaching philosophy also includes social aspects of learning in order to be successful in life,” she said. “I learned a lot while student teaching about how the teacher should instill values in the classroom. It is important to teach the children about taking responsibility by insisting they meet deadlines and participate in class duties.”
Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education & Human Development, said Kelly exemplifies what it means to be an educator.
“In all my years in higher education, I’ve never seen an undergraduate who has done so much,” Litton said. “Teaching is a noble profession that requires teachers to do something for others. Blair gives back to others, not only in her student teaching classrooms, but also with her volunteer work.”
Kelly served as co-president of the UHV chapter of the international education honor society Kappa Delta Pi her senior year at the university. Alpha Zeta Lambda was established in 2011 and has more than 90 active members in Victoria and Fort Bend. To join, members must have completed at least 30 semester credit hours and have a minimum of a 3.0 grade-point average.
Even though she’s graduated from UHV, she is remaining active by serving a second term as co-president. Kelly has organized various fundraisers and literacy events in Victoria and Katy since she joined the honor society.
Kelly also volunteers at the Victoria Children’s Discovery Museum and as a docent at the Museum of the Coastal Bend.
She is using her skills as a student organization leader at her new job this summer working for UHV Student Life & Services. The department is implementing a new online system for campus organizations called JagSync. Kelly helps with the programming and testing of functions within JagSync and has trained other student leaders and departments on how to set up items within the system.
And while she won’t be in a full-time classroom just yet, she looks forward to that dream job one day.
“There is something rewarding about teaching a subject, sometimes even having to reteach areas, when a child finally understands a concept and is excited to learn,” she said.