Bell says she doesn’t take parents’ trust lightly

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Shannon Bell feels it is a privilege to be a teacher.

“It’s an honor, to me, that people trust me enough to let me help them rear their children,” she said. “That’s something I don’t take lightly. They give their most precious gift to me for a few hours every day, and that’s a big deal.”

Bell has taught at First Presbyterian Church in Vicksburg for 15 years.

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“My first group was 2 when I taught them, and they’re juniors in high school now,” she said. “I still see them as 2 year olds.”

Bell spent her first year teaching the smaller children, but the next year she moved up to Pre-K and has been with the 4 and 5 year olds ever since.

“It’s really hard to be sad when you’re around children all the time,” she said, adding they can always perk her up on bad days. Bell especially loves when her students earnestly inquire about the meaning of words, phrases and concepts.

“That lets me know I’ve challenged them with a new idea or a new vocabulary word,” she said.

Preparing the children to learn how to read is an important part of her curriculum.

“If you can read you can do anything else,” she said. “Reading readiness is what Pre-K is all about.”

Her class has a morning routine where they look at the calendar and count the days of school. Then Bell introduces new concepts on the board like letters, numbers and patterns.

This week the entire school is implementing technology into the classroom, and Bell is excited to see how her students will respond.

“We’ll have iPads and computers to enhance our learning in the classroom, and I can’t wait to be able to introduce all that to these kids as a way to explore new ideas,” Bell said.

Bell also likes to do artistic projects in class. She said it all starts with an idea and a few materials.

“I’m amazed at what 4 and 5 year olds can do if you just give them resources and maybe throw out an idea and let them go,” Bell said. “Let them be creative.”

Teaching at a church also allows Bell to introduce the Christian faith to her students, and she talks about God with them.

First Presbyterian will soon celebrate its 50th year, and Bell is eager to incorporate her students in the celebration.

“Part of our job is ministry. We don’t just come to teach ABCs. We’re here to teach children about life and what’s important to us,” Bell said.

Outside of the curriculum, Bell teaches her students social skills.

She said cooperation and getting along with others are daily lesson her children have to learn, and helping the children understand how to develop friendships with their peers is important to her. 

“Some kids’ first chance to be in a group of other children is when they come to me,” she said. Bell worked in banking before being offered the job at First Presbyterian. She didn’t think of herself as a teacher, but with a little encouragement she took the job on a temporary basis and fell in love.

“It’s funny, one of my daughters is a teacher and the other one works in banking,” Bell said.

Bell is originally from Natchez but moved to Vicksburg as a teenager and graduated from Warren Central High School. She is a member of the Church of the Holy Trinity and has three grandchildren.