By April Clark Honaker
Kelly Hodge is in the middle of her first year teaching second grade at A.E. Phillips Laboratory School, but Hodge is not new to teaching. After earning her Bachelor of Science from Louisiana Tech University in elementary education Grades 1-5 and special education Grades 1-12, Hodge added certification in Pre-K to K as well.
Hodge has experience teaching a variety of ages in a variety of settings, including three years teaching kindergarten at Glen View Elementary. Hodge remained at Glen View until her son was born. The following spring, she said, “I was itching to get back in the classroom.”
At that time, some friends encouraged her to apply for an open position teaching first grade at A.E. Phillips. After five years teaching first grade there, Hodge was recently named a Teacher of the Year by Lincoln Parish Schools and is now teaching second grade for the first time.
She said the difference in maturity between first and second grade is significant. The second graders can read and write for longer periods. This year, about half of Hodge’s students were also in her first-grade class last year. “It’s been really sweet to have some of those same students,” she said, “but also add some new ones into the mix.”
Hodge said the biggest difference in teaching at A.E. Phillips compared to Glen View is the opportunity to watch her students grow over the years. “That’s something very special and sweet about teaching at A.E. Phillips.” Her first class there is now in sixth grade.
“I just love my students,” Hodge said, “and I hope they know how much I love them.”
Teaching is something Hodge believes she was destined to do, and she loves hearing them explain their answers and their thought processes. At times, she uses peer teaching and said, “I love hearing them teach each other, have their own conversations, and really dive deep into their own thought processes.”
At the same time, Hodge believes true learning happens best when a child’s relationship with their teacher is strong. Hodge takes care to balance playfulness and seriousness and make students feel at home. “My kids know when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to get down to business,” she said.
Hodge also tells her students that their peers are their “school brothers and sisters.” She tells them, “This is our family, and we take care of each other.”
Hodge’s favorite part of teaching is interactive read alouds. “I love to have the kids right at my feet with a really interesting book they can’t get enough of,” she said. She also loves the learning that these sessions spark.
Hodge is passionate about teaching her students but also about supporting new teachers. Louisiana Tech’s education students are now required to complete a yearlong clinical residency. To serve as a mentor for residents, teachers must earn a mentor certification through the Louisiana Department of Education.
Hodge earned this certification in 2020 and said, “The residency program has been a big asset to my classroom.” The residents come to Hodge with their education coursework and practicum classes completed. With the residents, Hodge said, “Students are really kinda getting a double dip with instruction.”
Hodge plans and co-teaches with her residents. “They bring new and fresh ideas that they’re learning to me,” she said. According to Hodge, it’s nice to have the extra support. Anything that adds value to her students is worth it for Hodge whose passion for her students is second to none. “My students are my most favorite thing,” she said.