Teachers are a special breed. They have to be willing to put in long hours, receive little thanks, and somehow keep powering forward solely on the knowledge that they’ve done something positive for their charges — whether or not the kids they work with even realize what they’ve been given.
It’s a sacrificial role, putting up with shenanigans and difficult individuals (both parents and students), but it’s one of the most deeply rewarding jobs, too.
Kayla Payne was eager to begin teaching, but she had to fight a lot of her own fears in order to step into the classroom and accept the fact that she was cut out to be a teacher.
When she applied for a teaching job, the principal of Armstrong Elementary, Tracy Atkins, took a shine to Payne’s obvious gifts.
“Well I saw a passionate educator, first and foremost,” Atkins said in an interview. “When I looked through her resume, she was a good match for what we were looking for. And that is someone who wants to be the change, the light, and a difference for our students at Armstrong.”
“And so she then calls me back and says hey, we want to hire you,” Payne recalled. “Hearing those words, like, stopped my heart because I was like, part of me was — oh my word, this day is here. Like, this is the day you’ve planned for, for four years in college, and the other part of me was — oh my word, I can’t do this.”
So she told Atkins she couldn’t do it. Atkins was understandably quizzical.
“I was shocked and my feelings were hurt,” Atkins said, “and so I called the district office and I said, why would you guys send me a candidate that doesn’t want a job?”
So the recruiter got involved, calling up Payne to see what had gone wrong. “Hey, Kayla, tell me, why did you decide that you no longer want this job?” Deitre Helvy asked.
After waiting for Payne to respond, Helvy realized that all she needed was a push: some encouragement, some sort of validation and reassurance that she had what it would take.
“She has a heart, she has passion, and we’re not gonna let fear seep in,” Helvy said. Payne eventually accepted the job, and after less than two weeks, she knew she’d made the right choice.
“What I say a lot is, I forget that I’m small until the world reminds me,” Payne said. “I teach second grade at Armstrong Elementary. And I love it because this is my dream.”
“I’ve always wanted to teach and there are a lot of different reasons why people want to teach but for me it’s simple. I just want to be the one person that can show a kid the encouragement and love that they need. That there’s nothing they can’t do because a lot of kids don’t have that.”
The reason she relates so well is because she’s faced struggles herself and has had to overcome adversity and prove herself on her own.
“As a child, parents come in all forms, and I’m not saying my parents were bad, but as a child, they lacked the skills to be able to encourage me and to be able to tell me that I was good at stuff,” she said.
“Instead they usually told me that I was a failure, that they didn’t really want me, that I wasn’t smart. And so years upon years, I believed it. And I wondered what my purpose was on this Earth. Even though I’ve only been teaching for, like, 12 days, I’ve already figured out that this is where I belong.”
She may have only been in the classroom a short while, but even complete strangers who have seen her story know she’s the real deal.
“You can just see the light in her eyes, such enthusiasm and know she is a gifted teacher,” one viewer commented. “Wish she’d been one of my teachers as a kid!”
“And I cry,” another wrote. “We need a thousand more like you. Please keep on sharing your light.”
“I am a retired teacher with 35 years of experience,” commented a third. “I recognize passion and spirit when I see it. May you have many rewarding years of teaching and may your students, parents and administrators appreciate you for your gifts.”
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