Congratulations to Laurie Bell and Rachel Williams teaching team at New Town United Methodist Preschool they were voted April 2017 Williamsburg’s Choice Teacher of the Month! Laurie Bell and Rachel Williams are accepting their gift card and certificate from School Crossing Owner Sherry Phipps.
Learn more about this Teacher of the Month teaching team, by reading their answers below to a series of questions we asked her about herself and teaching. We hope you enjoy reading about another wonderful teacher in our community!
1. How long have you been teaching and teaching at New Town United Methodist Preschool?
Laurie Bell: I have been teaching for a total of 14 years, 4 years as a special educator in Virginia and 10 years at the preschool. I am blessed to be one of the founding New Town staff members.
Rachel Williams: I have been an Early Childhood Teacher for over 20 years. This is my 5th year team teaching with Mrs. Laurie Bell at NUMC Preschool.
2. What drew you to teaching, teaching at New Town United Methodist Preschool?
Laurie Bell: The field of education is a second career for me. I have an undergraduate degree in accounting, obtained my CPA, and was working as an auditor for a national accounting firm. Although I found the various businesses I helped interesting, I was unfulfilled in this career path. I wanted a career in which I made a difference to someone else on a personal level. Through prayer and various life experiences, I came across the field of education, specifically supporting and guiding those children with learning differences. As I began to pursue this path, I continued in prayer asking God to open wide the doors of this endeavor or to slam them shut. God kept opening each door I had to walk through from obtaining my Master of Education at William and Mary through a Virginia state grant to an immediate job placement at a wonderful middle school. I LOVED interacting with the kids, helping them strengthen their areas of weakness, and learning through their areas of strength. I found they blessed me as much as I, hopefully, positively impacted them. At the end of my first year teaching, even though I had not told anyone about my reason to switch careers, a young man I had taught came into my classroom with a gift. He handed me a small silver-plated $ store tray on which he wrote in black Sharpie, “To Mrs. Bell: Someone who makes a difference.” This small gift has always been one of the best gifts I have ever received from a student. For me it was the affirmation from God that I had chosen well. It was my, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
After 4 years as a special educator, my husband and I began our family. I stayed home with my 2 children until the youngest was ready to enter Kindergarten. I always knew I wanted to go back to teaching but felt I could not work full time and be a good parent given my all-in 100% personality. As I was prayerfully considering my next steps, Gretchen Tisone, our preschool director, felt God’s calling to open up a Christian preschool. We knew each other from various Williamsburg ministries, and she offered me a job working Monday through Friday morning as a 3’s and 4’s co-teacher. Being a former special educator, I often co-taught in the general educator’s classroom. I was excited at the opportunity to co-teach again, to learn from other great educators, and to be back in the classroom. I found I LOVE teaching 4 year-olds who have such a sense of wonder about the world. They joyfully encounter new experiences with an unparalleled excitement that is contagious. They remind you how to love others well, live honestly, and learn through play. These 10 years have been a gift!
Rachel Williams: I previously taught at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church Preschool in Toano for 10 Years. I went into the public secure for 4 years, then I decided I wanted to get back into the Christian Faith Based Preschool. God answered my prayers! I am apart of NUMC Preschool Family.
3. Can you mention a project where you were able to engage the kids outside of the classroom or stories that you heard where they brought their learning home?
Laurie Bell: Preschool children learn through play. It is how they make sense of their daily experiences and connect new knowledge to old. It is our job to make learning as hands-on and as fun as possible so the kids buy into learning and see its value. Recently, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a visit from a tricky little leprechaun who turned our room upside down looking for his pot of gold. While cleaning up the mess he made, the children found a note from him. He left shamrocks numbering 1 through 10 for us to follow leading to his stash of hidden magic rocks. The children excitedly found each numbered shamrock and these magic rocks made of green-colored baking soda. Of course, we had to wash leprechaun germs off of the rocks so the children dropped the rocks into a bowl of white vinegar. Then the magic happened. The vinegar began to fizz and bubble as the baking soda washed away leaving a single gold coin for each child to take home. Upon reading a book about setting a trap for a leprechaun to get his pot of gold, the children decided they would use their gold coin to lure a leprechaun into a trap that they would make at home. A couple of the children did just that; they built a leprechaun trap at home and had their parents send us a picture or video of the trap they had engineered. It was priceless!
Rachel Williams: Each child has the a turn to be the Star Of The Week. At morning Circle the star of the week has the opportunity to lead the prayer and pray for one of his or her peers. As the school year continues it has been such a wonderful blessing to see children praying for their peers and their family members and pets. They show such empathy as they share their beliefs in Jesus Christ and pray for their families and friends.
4. What perspective have you gained from being around preschool children all day?
Laurie Bell: Preschool children remind me to look at God’s world with a sense of awesome wonder, they show me daily what child-like faith really looks like, and how to offer love and forgiveness each morning. They also teach me how to slow down and enjoy the moment, to live fully in the now because time is a gift. Their smiles and giggles remind me to smile and giggle too as we enjoy God’s gift of spending time with each other exploring His creation.
Rachel Williams: Children are a joy , you have to be able to teach them, imagine with them , play with them be silly with them , be part of their fun and be willing to be flexible enough to be apart of their world!
5. What do you want your students to be able to do when they leave your classroom – that you know will prepare them for further education and life in general?
Laurie Bell: As a Christian preschool teacher, it is my greatest responsibility and blessing to plant the seed of God’s love in their lives. I don’t know what their future holds, but I do know as long as each child knows he is made in the image of God by a Creator who loves him beyond measure and seeks a relationship with him, then he will know his worth, find joy in the good times, and be able to walk through the bad times knowing he is never alone.
My second responsibility as a preschool teacher is to develop life-long learners living in community with each other. It is my hope and prayer that each child develops a sense of confidence and perseverance by accomplishing difficult tasks with important adults in her life encouraging her and being her cheerleader. She knows that school is a safe place to explore new activities and people, and that learning is fun! She is kind, respectful, and responsible toward others in her community as she seeks to shine God’s light in a dark and hurting world.
Rachel Williams: I would like each child to have the self confidence needed to be successful in their relationships with ,their families ,their teaches and their peers, so they will continue to build on that solid foundation needed in their lives, which will in turn promote high self esteem needed to become confident in the future goals that they set for themselves.
I pray that the children will leave remembering that God is real and He loves them so much that He wants them to share his love by treating others with that same love that he gave them through the gift of His son Christ Jesus who is alive today.
6. If you could ask parents to do one thing to help their children’s academic success what would it be?
Laurie Bell: Read to your child every day and limit electronic time. Reading books, magazines, comic strips, anything you enjoy reading together not only brings you closer together as a family, but also increases a child’s attention span and oral vocabulary, and demonstrates the importance that learning and books have in your life. While studies continue to show a direct correlation between time spent daily reading to children and later academic success, other studies have shown a correlation between excessive electronic time and decreased attention span and creativity. Please count up all the hours your child spends watching television or DVD’s and playing video or computer games and compare it to the American Pediatric Association’s guidelines. If you find your child is plugged-in a little too much, pull the plug and reach for a book.
Rachel Williams: I would ask parents to read and discuss books and more books! Allow you child to retell you the story. Allow them to help you cook! It’s a wonderful way to introduce the measuring and many other required skills .
7. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you and/or your class that you find you post, read, share or just meditate on?
Laurie Bell: There have been many quotes over the years that have offered inspiration for a particular season of life and teaching. I recently read a Circe Institute post entitled “The Learning That Happens Despite Me” by Lindsey Brigham, a classical teacher of literature, composition, rhetoric, and logic. The end of every school year provides a time for self-reflection. What went well in the preschool class this year? What do I need to improve? What do I need to throw in the trash and never resurrect? In this January 2017 post, Ms. Brigham is also going through a time of self-reflection of her year. She writes, “I knelt in the middle of the untidy tables and chairs, and felt overwhelmed by two things: my sins and God’s grace. That posture and feeling comes to us more often in church than at school, perhaps, but in 2016, the biggest thing I learned at the lectern was the same I hear preached from the pulpit: that learning—like redemption, and like all good things upon this earth—comes by grace.” She recounts the small omissions and errors that detracted from her ability to “teach from rest, to nurture joy and wonder in learning, (and) to create space for contemplation.” Despite these feelings, she saw the “goodness that flooded…(her) classroom. Goodness that meets you though you don’t deserve it, though you haven’t earned it or produced it, isn’t that grace?”
While I continue to reflect upon my year and what I wish to improve, I will remember to look for the times when God’s goodness flooded our classroom and to see the learning that came from His grace.
Rachel Williams: One of my favorite scriptures, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 It doesn’t matter what your feeling or how your class maybe responding! You can still have a great day!
8. Are you from Williamsburg? If not, where are you from, what brought you here?
Laurie Bell: I have been in Williamsburg, for the most part, since 1986 when I began attending William and Mary obtaining my undergraduate degree. My husband grew up here and we both have family in the area. Despite a few years living and working in Richmond, we found our way back to the ‘Burg and have been here since 1997.
Rachel Williams: I was born and raised in Swindon Wiltshire (near Oxford ) in England. My husband is from Williamsburg. He joined the Military and was stationed in England.
Congrats again to Mrs. Bell & Mrs. Williams and we thank them for being such a great asset to our community and teachers to our littlest children!!
If you would like to vote for next month’s teacher of the month you can vote here. Teacher of the Month is a partnership between School Crossing, The Virginia Gazette and WilliamsburgFamilies.com.