Kelly Hine was a self-described ‘teacher’s pet’ in grade school, but she never imagined becoming a teacher herself. Yet 18 years into her teaching career, she is among the top 10 finalists for 2023 Indiana Teacher of the Year, as recently announced by the Indiana Dept. of Education.
Hine, who teaches first grade at Union Elementary School, said she felt particularly humbled to be nominated for the award because she feels she is continuing to learn how to improve as an educator.
“I want to emphasize that I’m just a representative of the great things that are happening in our school community,” Hine said.
Hine said a cadet teaching program her senior year in high school led her to fall in love with the thought of being in the classroom. She said she loves working with younger students, because of their positive attitude and innocent sense of humor.
“It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re teaching first grade,” said Hine, who was selected Union Elementary Teacher of the Year last academic year. “I can’t really imagine doing anything else. I still to this day just love going to work and being with the kids.”
Teaching active young minds inspires Hine to keep her work fresh, she said. She never likes to do the same things year after year, because it keeps it exciting for her as much as it does them.
Hine credited much of her success to the supportive environment at ZCS and the camaraderie she has with her co-workers. She said being able to see different teaching styles and participating in professional development has played a big role in her ability to grow as a teacher and stay excited about her work.
“Teachers need to be lifelong learners,” Hine said. “You can’t expect your students to be excited about learning if you don’t share that passion with them.”
Within the classroom, Hine said positive reinforcement and clear boundaries are the key to making sure the teacher and the students are comfortable as the school year progresses.
She said she felt that building a classroom community was central to accomplishing this goal.
“It’s important that teachers are intentional and vulnerable with their students,” Hine said. “Show them that teachers make mistakes, too, and that you’re human just like them. That goes a long way to help build your classroom community.”
The Indiana Teacher of the Year will be announced later this fall. Joshua DeBard of the Lebanon Community School Corp. is also a top 10 finalist. The overall winner will “work to help elevate the teaching profession in Indiana, as well as represent Hoosier teachers at the national level,” according to the Indiana Dept. of Education.
For more about the program, visit in.gov.