Russell: I teach because it is truly the joy of my life

Published 8:07 am Monday, January 30, 2017

Giving students an education, a voice and a leadership role is the way Staria Russell approaches her classroom.
The kindergarten teacher was named Redwood Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.
Recently, Russell taught a unit where she read two books to students and they worked on comparing and contrasting the stories while also coming up with their own versions of the story. She said the lesson taught the children to think creatively, use higher order thinking and to be hands-on.
“I believe that all learning styles should be addressed and that learning should be a fun and engaging process,” Russell said. “I want my students to feel excited about what happens during a lesson or unit and to be able to exert some autonomy in the learning process.”
Education in school is more than just academic lessons; she said she gives her students social lessons too by teaching them to be leaders who are responsible for their actions.
“Kindergarten students learn to be connected to the world around them by experiencing respectful, responsive relationships and by developing the understanding that their actions and responses affect others,” she said. “They must be able to participate collaboratively in everyday routines and have opportunities to contribute to decisions in their lives.”
Russell is involved with the Leader in Me as a member of the school’s Lighthouse Team, and she is helped introduce Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, or PBIS, implementation in the school.
“I teach because it is truly the joy of my life,” she said.
Russell truly enjoys spending time with her students and getting to know their personalities and what interests them. She tries to make time every day to talk to them and let them express themselves.
“The best part for me, bar none, is the children,” she said. “I love having relationships with them where we talk. I love doing one-on-one, small group where we talk about whatever they want to talk about it.”
Russell said she grew up playing school and had always dreamed of being a teacher, but she didn’t get her degree immediately after high school.
“I didn’t go back to school until I was about 25. I worked. My husband and I had a restaurant,” she said.
A family member who has a learning disability especially inspired Russell to teach and to help children find success with all different abilities.
“That really fueled my passion for the classroom,” she said.
Russell graduated from Brandon Academy and earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mississippi College. She has taught kindergarten, first and sixth grades at University Christian School, McLaurin Elementary School, Crossgates Baptist Kindergarten and A.W. Watson Elementary.
Russell is a member of the Mississippi Association of Educators. She has three children.
Twenty-one teachers in Warren County were nominated for teacher of the year. The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce has selected a panel of educators to interview each school’s chosen teacher and will choose one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year on Feb. 15. Both teachers will receive $1,000.
Today’s story is the sixth in a series of articles on each teacher up for the honor of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year.

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