Keisha Flowers Haley is a career educator who recently completed a task that "drove the joy of teaching deeper into me." And that's good news for her third-grade students at Newberry Elementary School and their circle of support.
Haley now is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, marking her among a dedicated group advancing through the organization's enhanced standards program.
Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher is an important and rigorous accolade for career educators. Even with her 14 years of experience, Haley said she found the process daunting.
"I was a bit afraid at first," she said. "The notice had been posted on the bulletin board at school and when I read it I thought it was a bit overwhelming, but the more I thought about it the more I was won over. Having the National Board means I will be automatically certified with any school system in the country, which is good in case I ever want to relocate."
That, however, is not really on her mind.
"Just pursuing it brought a benefit to my students from the very beginning," said Haley. "For example, I had to track the growth of specific skills of two students meeting certain criteria. Not just mastery of the curriculum, but the development of their innate strengths. That builds long term confidence and value that can carry them throughout their lives.
"It drove the joy of teaching deeper into me, making me want to find more ways to help my kids develop their own particular strengths, not just recite information," she said. "When I see that light bulb come on, when they really start grasping and engaging in what I'm teaching, that's the joy of the Lord. And our principal's (Jaron Carson's) help was invaluable. "
It may seem cliché to some, but teaching's reciprocal relationship is very real and very personal for Haley. Both of her parents were teachers, and passionate about their students' development. Mother Mazella Flowers was named Teacher of the Year by both the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. Her late father, Albert Flowers, was just as committed in his career. Sister Angelique Jackson is a library media specialist at Airways Middle School.
"Home is where becoming an elementary educator really sparked for me," said Haley. "My parents would bring kids home all the time for additional studying, and watching them and how they enjoyed doing their jobs eventually took root in me."
For a while, Haley wanted to be a pediatrician. She also explored the possibility of owning a professional day-care service. But as she pursued her education, the passion for early childhood education grew into a flame.
"Now, my joy in the morning is going over my lesson plan and watching my students grow and progress. I can't describe how gratifying it is to see a first grader try to write a simple sentence at the start of the year and by the end of the year to see them progress into writing full sentences. It's unimaginable," she said.
Two girls she has been working with are good examples.
"Both of them were in resource training last year (to provide improvement study), but now they are on the same par as the rest of the third grade. You have to understand what it means to that child to accomplish that," said Haley.
"Teachers have a very real impact in their students' lives. Their potential journey in life depends on what we accomplish with them now."