Teacher makes classroom feel like home away from home
Family is key for Caress Counts, whether it is with her own three children or the third-graders in her classroom at Lansing Elementary School.
As a new teacher in the Lansing district, Counts is bringing that family atmosphere she holds so dear to the students she described as "wonderful."
"I love it," she said. "It's a thrill to get up every morning and go to work."
To foster that sense of family, Counts relies heavily of group activities that get her students to work with several different peers throughout the year.
"All the kids can learn together, and that way it makes the classroom more like a home," she said.
So far the year has gone by quickly, but Counts said she was excited with what her students have accomplished so far. Her students have done everything from making globes and ornaments to presenting several book reports. Counts said her goal in all of the activities was to help her students develop the study skills that will continue to benefit them as their educational career progresses.
When Counts started college at the University of Kansas, she thought her future would include a business degree. After only a short period, however, she said she realized she wouldn't be happy without working with children.
"I'm definitely the caring heart," Counts said of her desire to teach children.
After switching, Counts received her bachelor's degree in education from Washburn University in 1993 but decided to stay home to raise her children - Lauren, 14, Caleb, 12, and Jordan, 9.
Eventually she got back into the teaching profession and taught fifth grade in Leavenworth for six years before making the switch this year to Lansing.
When she's not trucking her own children back and forth between sporting practices or dance and tumbling, Counts said her passion is writing. It doesn't matter what she writes but it's just the process, she said, that is her relaxation from a stressful day.
She brings that passion to the classroom where, she said, she wants to instill an excitement for writing in her students. She said these days students are writing less as more attention gets focused on standardized tests. That won't be the case with her students, however; each one is already familiar with the terms rough draft and pre-writing.
Another issue Counts holds dear has been her work with special-needs children. Her brother was born with mental retardation, which has led her to become involved with the Special Olympics and the Association of Retarded Citizens.
Through her volunteer work Counts has taught many people who in turn have taught her more about herself. She said her advice to all of her students would be to stay true to who they are and to never give up on their dreams.