“It’s important you tell me your answers with confidence,” Ms. Case instructed students in her fourth grade class as they were reviewing quotation marks and comma placement. Students responded in the way they usually do for Ms. Case, positively and with confidence, just as she had encouraged. In fact, this is the way students and adults feel after leaving conversations with Ms. Case – empowered with new knowledge. This month, administrators, fellow teachers, and parents recognized Ms. Case’s dedication in the classroom leading to her nomination for Spotlight Teacher of the Month!
Ms. Autumn Case didn’t start college with the idea to be a classroom teacher. After graduating from Licking High School in 2011, Ms. Case wanted to dive into a career in wildlife, learning more about nature and our interaction with science. She graduated from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar with an undergraduate degree in sociology and criminal justice, but Ms. Case soon learned that she loved working with children. “It just fit,” she described. Ms. Case pursued her teaching credentials and began working in a first grade classroom full time in the fall of 2017.
In her work as a first grade and now a fourth grade teacher, Ms. Case believes improving student relationships and helping children feel safe is priority above anything else. “Students need to feel safe and valued,” Ms. Case reflects. Safe and valued is just how Ms. Case’s students feel even in this year of so much uncertainty. Ms. Case has been a teacher leader in the blended learning approach assisting virtual students and seated students simultaneously. While this work is not for the faint of heart, Ms. Case handles the pressure calmly and naturally.
“I could tell virtual learning was coming,” said Ms. Case, “so I spent a lot of time between March and August practicing and fiddling with it. I wanted to make sure I was ready”. And ready she was. In fact, Ms. Case has provided strategies and tutorials to families and colleagues alike. While the district has made some adaptations to virtual learning, Ms. Case feels this technology is here to stay. “Virtual learning won’t ever be the same as classroom learning, but with proper training and time, good can come out of it. Students CAN learn virtually with the right support. Due to quarantine, I had to teach from home for two weeks. It was a learning process on both sides, but when I returned to the classroom, students were ready for the assessment and did well.”
Since teaching for Licking R-VIII School District, Ms. Case has implemented a new program, GEMS, (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) and co-authored a grant with Mr. Benn Sullins used to supply the district with $10,000 worth of STEM equipment for both the elementary and secondary campuses. Ms. Case says she plans to expand this STEM work once we are past the need to socially distance students, and she would like to broaden the program for both boys and girls. When asked about her interests outside of school, Ms. Case says she loves to read, she enjoys nature, and she loves to travel. She has a passion for marine wildlife and would be very interested in being a part of a whale research project one day. Ms. Case enjoys spending time with close friends and her companions, her dogs, Knox and Murfee.
While Ms. Case has been an extraordinary influence for students and staff, Ms. Case is humble about the impact she makes each day. She reflected on this influence of her grandmother, Grandma Annie, during our chat. “I can’t thank Grandma Annie enough for always supporting me. I wouldn’t be here having this conversation or doing the work I do without her.” We thank Grandma Annie, too, for her support of an outstanding teacher we are proud to have on staff at Licking R-VIII School District. Students and staff are treated like family, learning new skills in a safe and structured way, and for these reasons, we are proud to submit Ms. Autumn Case as our December Spotlight Teacher of the Month.