Kelly Welch focuses on a new “3 R’s” of education each day in her Tryon Elementary classroom.
True, there’s still plenty of emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic. But Welch roots much of her teaching approach in a different set of principles – relationships, relentlessness, reach.
“At the beginning of the year, I always focus on building relationships with my students,” Welch said. “I encourage my students that we can learn more from mistakes than we can from success, but if we practice, we can accomplish anything if we don’t give up. I like for students to explore and reach the answer rather than simply having the answer given to them.”
Welch’s philosophy has produced numerous student success stories in her five years as a third-grade teacher at Tryon Elementary. It has also earned her recognition as Polk County Schools’ District Teacher of the Year for 2022-23.
Each year, teachers at all Polk County Schools nominate and then select one of their peers as that school’s Teacher of the Year. A district committee then interviews those winners and selects a county honoree, with that person then representing Polk County Schools in regional competition.
While Welch appreciates the honor and her moment in the spotlight, that isn’t what motivates her each day in her classroom.
“My goal is to strive to give my students the best third grade learning experience possible,” she said. “I want students to feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment.
“I can sum up why I want to continue teaching in one word: children. I wish to make a positive impact on the students I teach.”
Those who watch Welch work each day say the Tryon educator is doing just that.
“Ms. Welch has a passion for teaching and a dedication to create an environment where her students are not only being taught in creative ways, but loved, respected and inspired,” said Tryon Elementary Principal Dr. Cari Maneen. “We are so proud of the effort and hard work Ms. Welch brings to her students each day.”
Just as she pushes her students to reach for answers, Welch also constantly strives to find the best avenue for presenting concepts to her class, be that project-based learning, hands-on learning or just a lesson that has students up and out of their seats and moving around the classroom.
Students in Welch’s class recently wrote and published their own book, “Save the Animals.” For a lesson on the solar system, students had to produce a visual slideshow and short essay on a planet of their choosing, also doing the research to find the facts for that presentation. Welch constantly utilizes new technologies as a means to help students grow their knowledge but also their comfort level with those platforms.
Those efforts, Welch feels, deliver rewards and life lessons beyond the knowledge gained.
“I like for students to work on creating a project that they can be proud of themselves and their achievements,” she said.
A graduate of Gardner-Webb University, Welch came to Tryon Elementary in 2018. It was at Gardner-Webb where she decided to pursue a career in education, but admits the love for teaching has roots dating back to her own days as an elementary school student.
“I decided to be a teacher in my first year of college, but the seed had been planted since I was in kindergarten,” Welch said. “The kind-hearted and compassionate teacher I had was an inspiration to me.
“I feel honored to represent Polk County Schools as Teacher of the Year. The award makes me strive to try my all. With every second in the classroom, my focus is to do what is right for students.”