Larissa Whitney

Elementary School Teacher

When I was really young, I loved lining my dolls up and reading to them out loud. I even tried to dress like what I thought a teacher would wear! My mom still has a picture of that scene in action, which means a lot to me today. It was a snapshot of what was to come!

As I got older, though, I became less and less sure about what career path I wanted to pursue. When I was a junior in high school, I took a career aptitude survey and the results showed counseling, nursing and teaching as my top suggestions. Nursing was definitely not in the cards for me — I get weak in the knees just thinking about what that entails — and thank goodness there are incredible medical professionals out there who can step up to the task!

Based on the test results, I decided to look more seriously at a future in teaching. And at my high school, we had a Teacher Cadet program that allowed me to observe various grade levels and shadow teachers. I was hooked right away after observing the elementary school grade levels and knew that was the path I wanted to take!

To get the training I needed to launch my teaching career, I attended Fort Hays State University. Through the degree program, I had several internships and the opportunity to be a student teacher for a semester. Once I graduated and became fully licensed in Kansas, I also got experience as a substitute teacher.

Today, I’m a 3rd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Hays. Beyond teaching the core subjects like math and reading, I also use testing data to make sure my students are performing at good levels based on their age, mentor other teachers and connect with my students’ families.

The best part about this job is getting fist bumps and high fives from the students! I love seeing them laugh and have fun. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding to see someone have an “Aha!” moment and watch the understanding wash over their face.

I recently celebrated 10 years of being a teacher! The time really flew by. Other milestones like watching my first class graduate and seeing kids transition into middle and high school have been very special.

My biggest piece of advice for others interested in teaching is to work in sales for a while! You’ll understand what I mean when you’re introducing new lessons and trying to keep students excited and engaged in what you’re telling them. Teachers can make or break a lesson with their energy, so keep that in mind as you walk into the classroom each day. You should also know that teaching is a little bit like managing a circus, but the kids absolutely make it worth it!