Henrico’s Top Teachers – Connie Kelly

You might say that education is in Connie Kelly's blood. If she needed to talk to the principal of her elementary school in Illinois, she could do so over dinner each night – he was her father. Her mother also was a teacher.

So perhaps it was no surprise when, after having children, returned to finish her college education and begin her own teaching career in her mid-30s.

"I've been loving it ever since," she said. "I wouldn't do anything else."

Kelly started with five years as a teacher in Richmond and has spent the past nine years teaching kindergarten at Seven Pines Elementary in Sandston. Kindergartners, she said, are the perfect fit for her.

"I like their enthusiasm for school," she said. "They are bubbly when they come in, they're so excited to learn. They're like little sponges – I love to see the little lightbulbs come on. It's a wonderful age where they're exploring their environment, they're learning new things, learning how to get along with others."

Kelly's patience and thoroughness with her students stands out to parents.

"She is more than a teacher – she is amazing!" one nominator wrote. "She is everything you would want in a teacher or in any person you trust your most valuables to. Kindergarten isn't always an easy step for children but she made such a bond with my son that he was always so eager to go to school."

Much has changed in the expectations place on kindergartners in the decade-plus since Kelly began teaching.

"When I first started, if you taught letters and sounds, and how to put them together, you'd call it a good year," she said. "Now most of the children are reading by the end of kindergarten. They're adding and subtracting, things they used to do by end of first grade.

"When I give them a book and they actually read it, they look at me with a big smile on their face like, 'I'm reading this book!' I think that's the 'ah-ha' moment for me."

Kelly's class utilizes interactive Promethean boards and iPads and computers virtually every day, and she engages students through a number of creative exercises, too.

"They pick it up so easily, they really do," Kelly said of her students' technology acumen. "I think they pick it up easier than I did. We also do a lot of dancing, singing, playing games. You can learn in lots of different ways."

The diversity at Seven Pines across ethnic and socioeconomic groups is something Kelly appreciates and one reason she's enjoyed her time at the school so much. She's also grateful that she has the chance to watch her former students grow as they progress through school. Many stop in to say hello once they've advanced to higher grade levels.

"Mrs. Kelly is the first real teacher my son had, and the way she mentored him and cared for him gave him a path to what is to be expected from other teachers in the future," another nominator wrote. "Her continued contact with the parent really made me feel like my son and I really meant something to her."
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September 2017
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The Rotary Club of Short Pump meets every Tuesday from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Keagan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in West Broad Village. On the fifth Tuesday of the month there is an evening social hour – check http://www.shortpumprotary.org for time and location. Full text

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