With a passion to make a difference in kids’ lives, Kayla Ragsdale pours love and energy into her kindergarten class at Hardin Valley Elementary School. We had the pleasure of interviewing this impactful teacher for our Teacher Spotlight.
Adam: Where were you born?
Kayla: I was born and raised in Karns.
Adam: What was your elementary school mascot?
Kayla: We were the Beavers.
Adam: What college did you attend?
Kayla: I started at Tennessee Tech and met my now husband, then I transferred to UTC which is where I got my degree. I did all the transfer paperwork and transferred myself without even talking to my parents.
Adam: What was your major?
Kayla: I started off as a nursing major and then pretty quickly realized that education was where I needed to be. I am pre-K – 3 with special ed endorsements as well.
Adam: How many years have you been teaching and how many years here at Hardin Valley Elementary?
Kayla: This is my 10th year teaching and this is my 3rd year at Hardin Valley. Every year has been Kindergarten.
Adam: Do you coach any sports?
Kayla: I’m just involved with my own kid’s sports. Two of them are in basketball, softball, and soccer. Then, there’s the little one that’s just wild.
Adam: He’s just happy to be alive!
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Kayla: I started off in nursing and wanted to do pediatric nursing. I knew early on that I wanted to make a difference with kids. Nursing wasn’t enough. I wanted to have a bigger impact on a more regular basis and get to see the impact I was making with the kids.
Adam: What’s your funniest teaching moment?
Kayla: Oh my goodness. This happened last year. I was doing Chromebook checks and told them to continue working but when they heard their name, to bring me their Chromebook. I say this one little boy’s name and he gets up and walks over to me with no Chromebook. He just looks at me and says, “Oh, you didn’t want my body? You wanted my Chromebook.” And I was like, “Nope, didn’t want your body. I would like your Chromebook.” That one still makes me laugh when I think of him.
Adam: What’s your most heartwarming teaching story?
Kayla: I think in kindergarten, it’s really just those light bulb moments that happen. They can be as little as remembering a letter to as big as writing a whole paragraph. It’s when they see the things that they can do for themselves. They have so much to gain independence in. It’s a daily thing in our classroom.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t allowed to teach?
Kayla: I would go back to nursing or just be a stay at home Mom. I would have to be doing something with kids. You can’t put me in an office.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Kayla: One that has always stood out in my mind is Ms. Rather. She was my kindergarten teacher and she had me and all three of my sisters. She requested all of us and I ended up babysitting for her when I was older. I could walk into her room right now and she would still know who I am.
Adam: Is she still teaching?
Kayla: She is! She does a lot with the pre-K developmental program downtown.
Adam: Which educator have you learned the most from here at Hardin Valley Elementary?
Kayla: It’s my whole team. We just work really well together. There are 10 of them, and every one of them is amazing. We plan, we share and even discuss struggles with students. Everyone is very helpful.
Adam: What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
Kayla: I think one of my biggest is being a first generation college graduate with my family. They enforced education with us and I know they are proud of their own kids all having graduated college. I know it can be hard coming from a family that doesn’t value education or wasn’t able to go through it. So turning that around for our family is a big deal.
Adam: What do you wish every parent knew?
Kayla: That most teachers are parents as well and we treat their kids in our classroom like our own. We say that they are our babies and they’re our kids. We treat them that way. We care for them. Maybe not quite as much as parents do, but a whole heck of a lot of love and energy is going into their kids.
Adam: What do you wish every student knew?
Kayla: I was telling them this today. We all can make a mistake. Mistakes are gonna happen and we just need to learn from them.
Adam: What do you think the difference between a good and a great teacher is?
Kayla: I think it’s an energy that you have and a passion you have for the students. It’s knowing that you may not teach them something out of a book that day, but maybe it’s going to be a life skill. It’s teaching them lessons in friendship and keeping good relationships with them. Sometimes it’s about the little accomplishments.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Kayla: I think a better understanding of being in the classroom. Sometimes it feels like things get passed or put on teachers that don’t make sense. Even with COVID restrictions for example. If they could see what actually works and what doesn’t, then things would go a bit smoother.
Adam: What’s something that you could use in your classroom?
Kayla: Time! I really need more time in the day. We have a great school and great parents that help out and volunteer. I guess more volunteers would be the best way to get extra time. I feel like our community is really set and our families do well to give us the things that we need in our classroom to do what we need to do.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Kayla: One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me, is that I love to bake cakes for our family birthdays. It’s something I do with my mom. We do it for all the nieces and nephews.
Adam: What’s a good way for a student or a parent to spoil you?
Kayla: Lunch. I feel like every teacher would say “food”. Hardin Valley Nutrition is awesome. Getting cards always feels good too. Those can turn your day around sometimes. Especially in kindergarten when they are starting to learn to write and they write out a card for you. You know they put a lot of time and effort into it at home. Those mornings they bring you something they made from home and they are so proud of it! Those are the best mornings.
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