Teacher feels first day jitters

Kayla Smith, seventh grade literature development teacher at Yucca Junior High School, instructs her sixth period class as they fill out a worksheet Wednesday at the school. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By David Irvin

Kayla Smith returned to college at 28 because she wanted to satisfy her desire to teach.

On Wednesday, her first day as a full-time teacher, the 32-year-old seventh-grade teacher got that chance, joining hundreds of new students for the first day of classes at Yucca Junior High School.

Citywide, thousands of Clovis students began classes Wednesday.

“The first day was great. The seventh graders were nervous, I was nervous, and we just got through it together,” said Smith, who worked as a secretary before becoming a teacher.

Yucca principal Alan Dropps hired Smith after seeing her teach this summer at Parkview Elementary.

“I was very impressed with what I saw,” Dropps said. “Even though she was a new teacher she had very good control of the material and very good control of the class.”

Smith said treating her pupils with respect and consideration is how she keeps them from getting out of control.

“I let the kids know upfront I can be fun or I can be mean,” the Portales resident said.

On the first day of class Smith made it a point to ask her students about their interests. As a matter of philosophy she believes students learn better when they are actively engaged with the material.

“I want the kids to be involved in their learning,” Smith said. “I want them getting into what they are reading because they will be learning even though they don’t know it.”

Smith’s dream of teaching children started when she realized what a positive impact a teacher could have on a child. She was excited to finally get a full-time teaching position this year, and said she will try to be the positive influence many students desperately need.

“I love working with the kids and I like being able to help them out,” Smith said. “I had a wonderful teacher in second grade that really impressed me.”

Smith said she wants to encourage her students to pursue higher education, even if they cannot attend college directly after graduating high school. After all, that is how she did it, and now she is fulfilling her dream.

Dropps is also filling a new role today. He spent the last two years as assistant principal, but was promoted this year after former Yucca Principal Jody Balch was promoted to principal at Clovis High in the spring.

Although Dropps said he was swamped with work his first day on the job, he thought things were running smoothly.
“We are excited about school starting,” Dropps said. “We’ve had a very good first day here at Yucca.”