Despite her recent graduation from college, the first day of school for Bradley County Schools was an exciting day for Chelsea Nipper.
The day marked her first as an interim second-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School.
“The first day they seemed really nervous, and I was just as nervous as they were because it was my first day, too,” Nipper said.
To make those first few days run smoothly, Nipper said she incorporated “getting to know you activities” into each school day.
Nipper said she felt having a small class of 15 students has allowed her to get to know her students better than she would in a larger class. During the first two days of school, Nipper said she really made an effort to get familiar with her students and their personalities.
“Mostly on the playground is where the interesting stories happen. ... They’ll come up and tell you the most hilarious stories,” Nipper said
She said knowing her students well helps her relate the material she is teaching to them in a way they will better understand.
Nipper said teaching has always appealed to her as a career.
“It was never this one moment where I decided (to be a teacher). I’ve always wanted to be one,” Nipper said.
She was further inspired by her fifth-grade teacher, Maggie Scott.
“She just had this way about her that you always wanted to please her and you wanted to do your best,” Nipper said.
Nipper graduated in May from Lee University.
After graduation, Nipper said she wanted something in elementary school. The recent graduate had experience teaching fourth grade and kindergarten, while also student teaching.
This year is her first time teaching second grade, and her first full-time teaching assignment.
“Every time I think I love one grade more, I fall in love with the other grade, too,” she said. “I’m going to hate to leave them after Christmas break. I am already so attached to them.”
Her favorite subject is math.
“About half the class, they really love math,” Nipper said. “It makes me happy because a lot of kids hate math.”
What she enjoys most about teaching is seeing her students’ faces light up when they understand a new concept.
“I tell them every day, ‘We need to learn this because we want to be smarter so that you can go to college,’” Nipper said.
While she said her education was a good preparation for leading a classroom, Nipper said there are differences in best practices and how a typical school day plays out.
“Even my Lee professors will say it’s so different when you have your own classroom,” Nipper said.
A new reading series this year for Bradley County Elementary schools has brought changes to every teacher’s classroom, Nipper said.
Nipper said the new series provides a variety of resources to enhance the reading lessons.
Giving required standardized tests and assessments is also a new experience for Nipper.
The transition to Common Core in Tennessee is also affecting teachers.
“My senior year they were focused on Common Core. It was nice to have that training,” Nipper said.
She received further Common Core training at teacher in-service where teachers who had attended state trainings this summer trained other teachers at their schools.
She said being a teacher, there is always something to prepare for the next day. Nipper said it keeps her pretty busy. She also works at the country club.
Nipper grew up in Cleveland, attending Black Fox Elementary, Ocoee Middle School and Bradley Central High School.
In addition to being a new teacher, Nipper was also recently married.