Rachel McKendree is a perfect fit for her job at Grace Bible Academy.
She is fresh out of college, and Grace Bible Academy is in its inaugural year; both are new and excited to grow. McKendree is the kindergarten teacher at Grace Bible Academy.
“They took a chance on me being a first-year teacher,” McKendree said. “But everything’s new here, so I didn’t feel any different being new.”
McKendree graduated from the University of Kentucky in May with a bachelor’s in family sciences and is currently working on her master’s in elementary education. She was born and raised in Lexington but recently moved to Winchester with her husband, Nathan, and two dogs, Flynn and Lexi.
McKendree currently has a class of five students.
“It’s just been an awesome opportunity,” McKendree said. “We have a smaller class size, and it’s pretty awesome to be able to pour into each student individually with that smaller class size, and we can do a lot more like hands on, one on one kind of activities.”
The resources the church and the community have offered to the academy has also been a welcoming surprise, McKendree said.
“To see how much they want this to succeed has been cool,” she said.
With such a small class size, the “no child left behind” is at its best.
“If one student doesn’t understand what we’re doing, the others can go ahead and work or do something else, and I can focus with that one and not worry about them getting too far behind rather than having to wait and catch them up later,” McKendree said. “We can just stop and do it.”
McKendree said she also enjoys teaching at a Christian school.
“Where we are a Christian school, we’re able to pray and teach Bible lessons,” McKendree said. “That’s helpful, especially to explain to them ‘this is why we don’t do this.’ It’s not to be a good person, but it’s God wants us to be good people … because I know a lot of times in public school, you can’t bring that up. So, that’s always been something that’s been pretty important to me.”
Outside of teaching, McKendree trains service dogs. She also previously worked with a kids and canines organization and taught children how to train their dogs. McKendree also enjoys crafting, embroidering, painting and traveling to Disney World.
Growing up, McKendree spent a lot of her time working with younger students whether it be baby-sitting or in a 4-H program. McKendree didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew she wanted to have a career working with children in some capacity.
When she stumbled upon Grace Bible Academy’s job listing online, it seemed like the perfect opportunity, McKendree said.
“I never really saw myself in an actual classroom teaching, but here I am, and I enjoy it,” McKendree said. “It just happened.”
While only having been a teacher for a few short months, McKendree said she has enjoyed seeing her students grow in their learning and be excited about it.
“It’s that excitement of ‘this is so cool; this is something I’ve never done before,’ and see it through their eyes,” McKendree said. “It makes me excited, and I just really enjoy getting to see that excitement through them.”
In kindergarten, students will learn the alphabet, numbers up to 100 and more than 80 different sight words. McKendree said students would also begin reading and develop their social skills.
One of the more challenging aspects of being a teacher is trying to get students through their bad days, McKendree said. She said she hopes her students remember her as someone who believed in them and she is always there if they need her.
“Always remember that you’re smart,” McKendree said of the advice she gives her students. “You’re important. People are going to try to tear you down no matter how good you are at something, but always remember that you know who you are inside. You know who God made you be, so keep that with you rather than worrying about what other people might say, are saying to you or say about you.”
McKendree said her students are a constant source of joy.
“One of my little boys today when he left, he was like ‘Mrs. M, she’s my favorite,’ so hearing things like that, it’s so sweet,” McKendree said.
On National Talk Like a Pirate Day in September, McKendree dressed like a pirate and went a bit overboard in the classroom, incorporating the pirate-theme in all of the day’s lessons. The students were engaged in the activities, doing pirate math and other pirate-projects, McKendree said. So far, she said she counts it as one of her favorite days on the job.
“You just see the excitement that they have on that day,” McKendree said.
As the year moves forward, McKendree said she hopes to continue learning new and engaging classroom activities. She said she would also like to find a reward system that works for her classroom; though, the money-system she started this week seems promising.
As far as the future, McKendree said she hasn’t quite planned it all out yet seeing as she only just begun.
For now, she plans to continue training dogs, travel more and be the best teacher she can be.