One day at a time motto of award-winning Mize Elementary teacher
A few years into her business career, Shara Reilly realized it wasn't satisfying enough.
"I liked my job OK, but I wanted to change and do something and feel like I was impacting other's lives," she said.
So she became certified to teach and started working at Mize Elementary School as a third-grade teacher for the 2006-07 school year.
Her move was the right fit, as she was named a recipient of the 2008 Kansas Horizon Award that is presented to 32 first-year teachers in Kansas.
The Horizon Award program, currently in its sixth year, allows all school districts in the state an opportunity to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher for the award. To be eligible for the award, teachers must have successfully completed their first year of teaching and have performed in such a way as to distinguish themselves as outstanding.
Mize Principal Pam Hargrove said Reilly built strong connections with her students and lets them know she cares.
"She is brand new but you forget she's brand new when you have a conversation with her," she said. "Her communication skills are strong and I think that is indicative as part of her success and why she stands out in the school."
One thing Reilly said that might set her apart from other teachers was her use of technology in the classroom.
"I try to use technology a lot," she said. "Students are extremely motivated by that and so that really gets them excited about everything we are doing."
Applicants for the Horizon awards are asked to give advice to teachers beginning their first year. Reilly said she based her recommendations on what she learned during her first year.
"One of the things that I think about and that I really discovered last year is that you can't do everything or solve all the problems, so I really try to take things one day or one student at a time," she said.
Reilly said flexibility also is important for new teachers.
"The day very rarely goes the way that you planned it," she said. "You have to be able to change and adapt based on the feedback you get from your students."
Sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education, the Horizon Award program is a regional competition with four regions corresponding to the state's U.S. Congressional districts. Four elementary and four secondary classroom teachers may be selected for the award from each region. Reilly and other recipients will be recognized at a special luncheon Feb. 22.