Little Moments

Little Moments

Little moments in life shape you into the person you become. Countless teachers impacted my journey of loving my job. My teachers instilled in me the belief that educators can make a  lasting impact in this world because I remember the influence they had in mine.


I remember using my grandmother’s teaching materials when I was a little girl to teach the beginning sounds of pictures to my sister who sat in a little red school desk. I noticed her smiles of pride as I encouraged her. I also noticed my grandmother standing in the door, beaming. 


I remember when my mother decided to become a teacher. I saw the way kids looked at her, a look reserved for someone they love. She fueled my passions by allowing me to read and lead calendar time with her class, and she taught me teaching is a passion, not a profession.


I remember when teachers like Mrs. Hammer stepped into my life. I think back to when I won an art award for a painting of my grandfather’s garden. I looked at my family and proclaimed, “I think they gave the award to the wrong sister,” because when I gifted him the picture at Christmas, he asked, “What is this a painting of?”  I wonder what Mrs. Hammer saw in me. Could she see behind the eyes of a girl who was trying to find her way?


My teachers taught me more than reading, writing, and math. They molded me into a teacher who is a catalyst for change, a big dreamer, and someone who empowers other teachers. But most importantly, I am a teacher who loves inspiring students to become the best versions of themselves, to become heroes in their worlds.  


I want to share a story about 19 first grade heroes. 


A few years ago, I had the single most aggressive student my building had ever encountered. This six-year-old could shut down half of our building...adults were hurt, tears were shed. It was hard, but I had a choice. I could allow my students to live in fear, or I could teach empathy. We had hard conversations about how behaviors tell us things.


 He loved us, but he didn’t know how to show it.


By focusing on teaching empathy to my students, those 19 kids learned to love him well. They chose to sit with him at lunch, carried his coat to recess, packed snacks for him, held his hand, and chose him first. They loved him, even though he could not love them back the same way.


That student, those 19 heroes, and the countless other lives I have had the privilege of teaching are the reasons I love teaching. It is my dream as an educator to create thousands of little moments that move the next generation to act with empathy and leave us with a better tomorrow, just like my teachers did for me.


Rachael Wilcox is a  First Grade teacher at Independence Elementary School in the Francis Howell School District. She was most recently recognized as a 2020 Missouri Teacher of the Year Finalist.  She is committed to creating cultures that educate the whole child by weaving character education and social emotional learning across all instruction and professional development. Rachael enjoys inspiring educators, but her most significant impact has been in the hearts of her students. She believes educating the whole child influences the next generation to act with empathy and empowers them to become world changers.

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