TROY — She’s not the only Mrs. Key in the district, or even the only Sarah, although Hook Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sara Key said she has no H to her name while the other Mrs. Key does.
Key is the new half-day kindergarten teacher at Hook. A typical day in the life with kindergarteners is pretty routine-based, including daily calendar times, learning colors and shapes, doing the phonics dance, writing their numbers and reading fun books such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear.”
“It’s a lot of going over rules the first few weeks of school,” she said. “We haven’t so much gotten into the curriculum as much as we have our daily procedures. One of the challenges is that some of these kids coming into kindergarten have never been in school so we have a structured environment to do certain things.”
After graduating from Vandalia-Butler High School, she started college at The Ohio State University. When she started at Ohio State, Key wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
“It wasn’t until a few years in I decided to take some early childhood psychology courses and it really caught my interest,” she said. “That was when I decided to transfer to Urbana University and get involved in their early childhood program. I always knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t know what age.”
She graduated from Urbana University with a degree in early childhood education with a certification in kindergarten through third grade, remarking how the age group she works with is always up to learn.
“They’re very excited to learn new things, eager to please, love their teacher, like their school friends,” she said. “It’s just a different atmosphere. I really like the excitement and the energy that comes with teaching little ones. When you see that light bulb go off it’s very rewarding.”
She has a small group of nine students, whom she said are bright and are catching on to the flow of school fairly quickly. Going on the playground is one of the favorite times of the day for her class, as well going to the library or using the computers for their special section.
One of the biggest challenges with being a kindergarten teacher is teaching to all students who have had varying amounts of time exposed to a school environment before starting kindergarten.
“Some of them have never been to preschool, some have been home with parents, some have never been around other kids,” she said. “They’re very unique in where they are academically and socially when they come in the classroom. Once they go into first grade they’ve had a year in the classroom and they know about the structure of the school and rules and a schedule.”
Key taught kindergarten after graduating college, where she taught in the morning at one school and afternoon at another.
She and her husband Ryan later discovered they were pregnant with their daughter Maddie, who is now 13. Twins Drew and Allie, now 10, followed, and Key decided to stay home with her children for 13 years. She worked as a substitute the past few years at her children’s school before applying for the job at Hook.
“The funny thing is I came the day of my interview and as I came up to the school I realized I had on a silver shoe and a black shoe,” she said, laughing. “I live in Vandalia so I could not turn around and go home, so I came into my interview with two different colored shoes on. I thought she (Hook Principal Penny Johnson) would be behind the desk and wouldn’t see my shoes. There’s Penny, there’s (Hook kindergarten teacher) Kim Oakes and we’re in a circle, so I said, ‘Guys, I’m wearing two different colored shoes.’ That’s my funny story and when she called and offered me the job I said, ‘It must be the shoes.’”
She credited Johnson and Oakes for being supportive and Oakes especially for helping her get her footing as a new teacher.
“If I was on my own I think it would have been really hard to come in here and start planning,” Key said. “But she (Oakes) has been teaching for nine years and has been really helpful with adjusting to the position.”
In her downtime, she and her family spend a lot of time outdoors when it’s warm outside camping, going to drive-in movies, fishing and bicycling.
While her kindergarten students may not remember much of the educational aspect, Key said she hoped her kids would remember her as being energetic, fun and caring.
“There’s a few students in here that need a little extra love, and I want them to feel that they can trust me, that I care about them,” she said. “I want to build a relationship with them, but I think with most of them I have.”