Educator Spotlight: Beth Kirby, Ludington Elementary

May 8, 2022

Educator Spotlight: Beth Kirby, Ludington Elementary

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP – An Oriole through and through is how Ludington Elementary School teacher, Beth Kirby describes herself and she couldn’t be more correct. 

“My elementary experience started at Pleasant View Elementary and then Summit School out on Latin Road,” she said. “I graduated from LHS in 1984. I obtained both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grand Valley State University.”

Although, Kirby took a small break from Ludington after graduating with her undergrad degree, she still managed to find her way back with the perfect job waiting for her.

“My first two paraprofessional experiences were in Ann Arbor and Zeeland, where I worked at their educational service district summer programs,” she said. “My first official teaching job was here in Ludington. I was hired in the summer of 1991 as a resource room teacher at Foster School. I spent three years at Foster and then transferred to Franklin. I have been teaching for Ludington Area Schools for 31 years.”

Kirby said she knew she would pursue education from a pretty young age and she said she had a certain teacher to thank for that decision.

“My sixth grade teacher, Mary Eaton, was a huge influence in my choice to go into education,” she said. “While academics were the primary focus in her classroom, she always spent a good portion of our school day teaching us how to get along and respect each other. She made sure each of her students knew she cared about them and believed in our future success. I specifically chose special education because of my Aunt Cora Jean. She had Down Syndrome and lived in a group home in Frankenmuth. I always looked forward to her visits during the summer and at Christmas time.”

As she started her career in education, Kirby always remembered how Eaton had treated her and the other students in her school and she made sure that building relationships with her students was her number one priority.

“While academics are certainly at center stage, students are able to learn when they know their teacher cares about them,” Kirby said. “Creating relationships with students by understanding their stories and their needs opens more academic doors. My favorite thing about working in education is working with my students. They are charming, funny, and each one unique. I love to see their growth from September to June. As a kindergarten through second grade special education teacher, I have the unique opportunity to work with some students for three years.”

Creating relationships helps Kirby get through to students and make them feel heard, but there are always situations where even if she has built a relationship with a student, it doesn’t mean that every day is going to be a stress-free one.

“I worry about our students’ stress levels,” she said. “Students have difficulty learning if they are stressed. I work hard to make school a happy place to be as much as possible. On Fridays, I have Fun Friday during a portion of my day. Students look forward to this time sitting on the floor and playing with each other. This provides an incentive throughout the week to get their work done and to participate in the days’ activities.”

As the role of teachers have changed over time, students now look to teachers as more than just an educator and this can be daunting for new teachers just getting their feet wet in the field. Kirby believes strongly that those wanting to pursue education should get some hands-on experience first.

“I would strongly advise anybody going into the field of education to spend time in the classroom,” Kirby said. “Ludington High School students have a unique opportunity through the West Shore Educational Service District’s Career and Technical Education program to participate in Educator Academy. Other opportunities could include volunteering in a classroom or simply observing.”

With 31 years in the classroom with a lot of them spent between different schools, Kirby will finish out her years with LASD at the new Ludington Elementary School, where she gets to meet new students, but also gets to check up old ones as well.

“I have enjoyed the transition to the new school,” she said. “It’s fun to see previous students walk the hallways and I enjoy seeing all my other colleagues in one building. At Franklin, I was the only special education teacher, but now there are four other special education teachers in the building. While this is certainly a positive, the challenging part is finding time in the day to chat and share ideas. I also love having our ESD’s itinerant staff housed in our building.”

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