Chelsey Rodgers: Chambers Academy’s elementary teacher of the year

Published 8:30 am Saturday, June 3, 2023

Chelsey Rodgers, from Valley, was named the Chambers Academy Elementary Teacher of the Year in her first year at the school.

“I feel very honored, and I was very shocked,” Rodgers said. “I always want to do the very best for my students, and that just makes me feel so much better that I’m actually doing something right.”

In the past, Rodgers taught first grade, but this year she taught the fourth grade at Chambers Academy. The difference in the way students learn at those ages was an adjustment for her just as much as for them.

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“In first grade, they’re learning to read, but in fourth grade, they’re reading to learn,” she said.

In fourth grade, students have to do the HMH Reading, which was a challenge for her students. 

She had to adapt her lessons to help them learn the material.

“I’m going to change what I do until it works for them,” Rodgers said. “I feel like I should adapt to their type of learning.”

This year Rodgers said it took a while for the new comprehension challenge to click with some of the students. Just when she began to feel discouraged, things started to turn around. 

“That moment of ‘aha’ that they got, it just made everything have meaning, and it felt so good,” Rodgers said. “It was like finally, they got there. They found their confidence.”  

Finding that confidence is an important part of what Rodgers is teaching her fourth graders. Now that the students are reading to learn, they have to learn to engage more independently with their work.

“You have to have some sort of independence to want that and to do things on your own, and it’s crucial for going forward,” Rodgers said.

In addition to building connections, Rodgers also tries to find activities that engage her students. 

“We did a week’s worth of volcanoes,” Rodgers said. “We made our own volcanoes in science class, and they got to explode.”

Rodgers was expecting a baby, and her students were very excited to learn about it. After all their volcanoes erupted, Rodgers brought out a special volcano for the kids that erupted the color to reveal her baby’s gender to the kids. 

“I like to connect everything to them, so everything has to have a reason behind it,” Rodgers said. “It has to be entertaining.”

Rodgers has always had the teacher’s instinct. As an older sister, she learned at a young age how to encourage and guide children.

“I loved playing teacher growing up,” Rodgers said. 

After graduating from Point University, she got to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. She grew up seeing the magic of spending the evenings at Lanett High School in her grandmother’s classroom. She remembered getting to do her homework on the blackboard. 

“It was just so much fun,” Rodgers said. “So I think that had a lot to do with it.”

Now, Rodgers invites her to every class for fun activities. This year she read a story to her fourth-grade class during Dr. Seuss Week.

“She has come to almost every class I’ve taught,” Rodgers said. 

The Chambers Academy Elementary Teacher of the Year has some advice for aspiring teachers. She suggested that people visit classes and make sure that they know it’s what they want. With all the variables and things that can go wrong, the classroom can sometimes feel like a volcano on the verge of eruption.

“You think that you have everything planned perfectly, and it’s not. It never is,” Rodgers said.