For first-grade teacher Heather Pierce, it is the small things in her job that make it all the more worthwhile.
It is showing up on a day when she feels overwhelmed, only to be greeted by the smiling faces of her students eager to share with her what they learned from their homework last night.
It is attending a Little League baseball game with her family and running across a parent of one of her students, praising her for how she helped their child finally learn to read or understand a math problem.
It is seeing the sparkle in the eyes of a student the moment they finally comprehend what she’s trying to teach them.
It is not only being able to see her students in her class, but on a daily basis within her own community, witnessing firsthand how her instruction has shaped them outside the classroom.
Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary School is not simply the school she works for. It was the school she and her siblings attended. It is the school where her children now attend. And it is the school where her neighbors send their children.
This unique opportunity not only allows her to invest herself in her own children’s education, but that of other children within her community, allowing her to give back to it and to the school that helped mold her into who she is today.
“They deserve to have a great school and it needs to be part of an experience where you are making that happen for the kids in this community,” she explained.
No other career is more suitable for her. Pierce has always loved working with children. This love motivates her in her career each and every day, and it is this very passion that has garnered her with the title of the 2013 Teacher of the Year for the Lewis campus.
A Fort Meade native, Pierce was born and raised in the same town where his parents were born and raised.
Upon graduating from Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School in 1993, she married her high school sweetheart, to whom she had been wed for 20 years, and with whom she has raised three children.
She later attended Warner University in Lake Wales where she graduated with her educational studies degree.
Her teaching career began as a teaching assistant at Lake Wales Charter School in 2010. There she worked for three years before transferring to Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, starting as a third-grade teacher before moving to her current position in first grade.
As someone who naturally loves children, she does not consider working with them a challenge. Fulfilling every other duty of being a teacher such as paperwork and parent-teacher conferences, especially at the expense of her own family, is the challenge.
“You don’t mind them, but when you have a family of your own, a husband and children, you definitely want to be with them when you are off from work; but with this job, that sometimes doesn’t allow for that,” she explained. “Those are the challenges, because you want to do a good job, and you want to do things the way they are supposed to be done, but sometimes, you end up sacrificing on one end which ends up being my family to do what is being required to do.”
To her, these are not challenges that one overcomes; rather, they are something that one simply has to learn to accept and deal with to get their job done. Fortunately she has a fantastic staff and administration that is more than willing to help her through. She especially feels honored working alongside many of the teachers who taught her when she was young.
“We are all definitely qualified. We all work very hard, but it’s nice to work with a bunch of adults that are hard workers and have the same mission of making it the best that you want it to be for the kids,” she said. “I am very honored to have received this title from my colleagues, and that they think I can hold up Anna Woodbury.”
Her accomplishments in life she owes to the teachers she grew up with, she said, and most of all, to her mother, who helped raise and mold her into who she is today.
Her future aspirations are to return to college for her master’s degree so that she can be much more qualified to continue teaching. She hopes one day to eventually move into an administrative position.