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Ms. Kristina Potter at Hopkins Elementary is ready for her first day of school

Everything is set up perfectly in Ms. Kristina Potter’s class at Hopkins Elementary.

At the front of the room, there are LED push lights that are noise indicators to show her students what the appropriate noise level ought to be.

On another wall, there is a calendar and the alphabet, set up at the student’s eye level, near a small group instruction table.

On another wall, there’s a “sound wall,” where Potter can teach students what each letter sounds like so they can articulate words correctly.

In one corner, she showed off - with pride - the classroom library, with books beautifully stacked and labeled.

Lastly, she has a “calm down corner,” a social-emotional learning space in the room where students can identify feelings they are feeling and how to handle them.

With her entire classroom set up meticulously, Potter is ensuring that her students are ready for the first day of school.

And that she is ready for her first year as a classroom teacher!

Potter was a non-traditional college student, working as a technology paraprofessional at Hopkins for nine years while working on her degree and her certification to be a classroom teacher.

“This is what I always wanted to do, but I just had to take a different route to get here,” Potter said. “I always worked babysitting kids, working with kids. I loved taking care of someone else. I always found my way back to kids. And my sister is a teacher - I’ve always looked up to her. So, I kinda knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Not only was she a paraprofessional on campus, but she occasionally subbed for teachers who needed one. So, other teachers, students, and community members already knew who she was.

Now, she has a classroom to call her own.

“Sometimes you go into another teacher’s classroom and not know what you can touch or move,” Potter said. “Now, this is all mine. I can touch everything! It feels good to start at the bottom and see my vision come to life. I didn’t think it would look like this - I am proud of myself.”

Potter is one of the nearly 350 new teachers in the district. However, she isn’t really new to the district. She is a proud graduate of Judson High School!

“I would do high school all over again at the same place,” Potter said. “I have so many great memories at such a diverse school.”

When talking about her fond memories, clubs and organizations she participated in, she remembered the teacher that impacted her the most during high school.

“Ms. (Debbie) McKnight’s energy was different. She’s outgoing like me. She likes to have fun. She was very engaging. Whenever I do something, I like to have fun with it,” Potter said. “I thought I wanted to be in the health occupation field because she made it so much fun for me. She was… totally different. She opened my eyes up to a lot of things.”

Knowing how Ms. Knight influenced her, she wants to pass down the same feelings, encouragement, engagement, and fun to her students in her classroom during her first year of teaching.

“I keep thinking - what am I going to do first? What am I going to do second? I am so nervous! I’m all over the place, wanting things to go perfect. But I was told - it won’t be perfect. As you go, I’ll perfect things. The big main goal is to ensure [students] are fed and kept safe. I’m already having those first-day jitters.”

For any new teacher, they need mentors - a village - to ensure that the first year goes smoothly. It’s hard being a teacher, especially during the first year. Thankfully, Potter has a village, a group of teachers that are guiding her to ensure she is successful.

“I have these four ladies: Kuykendall, May, Dean, Windrow, who have been pushing me all summer. I started getting ready in June and have been supporting me through text messages, letting me cry, and ensuring that I will be ok. I have their number on speed dial.”

Potter wants to ensure that when her students leave her classroom, they leave with the same confidence her influential teachers left in her.

“I have one kid I met at Meet The Teacher. Her mom said that she struggled with reading. I want her to have confidence that she can do it, but also have fun and learn. I want them to know they can do it.”

As she begins her first year of teaching, it is critical that she is loved and supported. Our amazing educators are one piece of a very large puzzle, that all come together to ensure students are successful. We are blessed to have teachers like Mrs. Potter, and all first-year teachers, who have committed to educating children.

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