JMC teacher chose the unexpected path

Date Published: 
March 21, 2014

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Caroline Hevner stands at her classroom’s ‘Confidence Tree’ at John M. Clayton Elementary School.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Caroline Hevner stands at her classroom’s ‘Confidence Tree’ at John M. Clayton Elementary School.Caroline Hevner has the job of her dreams: teaching third grade. But it’s ironic how much she loves a job that used to be part of her nightmares.

“As many times as I said I can’t see myself being a teacher, I can’t see myself doing anything different,” said John M. Clayton Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015.

Raised in a family of educators, administrators and nannies, “I always swore I wouldn’t be a teacher.”

But as a high school nursing student, Hevner just “couldn’t take it. It was too gross for me.” During training, her favorite placement was actually at the hospital daycare. Defying her younger self, she attended University of Delaware for a degree in early childhood education, with a minor in special education.

While the Teacher of the Year label is impressive, the result of classroom observations, strong lesson plans and more, Hevner said the real honor was her own students’ nominations.

“Mrs. [Hevner] is a nice teacher. She taught me a lot of math … [and] a lot of science. That’s why I know [every]thing about science,” read one nomination.

Hevner teaches just science and math to about 40 students in all. While she loves problem-solving and puzzles, the kids love the hands-on activities, like searching for animal bones in owl pellets.

“They thought it was the most disgusting thing ever,” she said. “They loved it.”

After 11 years at JMC and its previous iteration, Frankford Elementary, Hevner said she likes third-graders because “you can joke with them.”

“She is very funny, and she always made us laugh,” wrote student Laysha.

The big challenge in teaching is “getting all the kids to the same place, knowing they all come from different backgrounds and different places,” Hevner said. But the important part is, “It’s doable. We always can do it.”

Hevner pauses often to see where the children are, and it’s “easy to see,” she said, when someone doesn’t understand the lesson. Earlier that day, Hevner knew three children didn’t remember a concept they had previously learned, so she knew exactly where to begin with them the next morning.

So, what’s the best part?

“The look on the kids’ faces when they get it,” Hevner said. “That pride on their faces, especially when they came in and didn’t think [they could do it].”

A former student mentioned Hevner’s teaching strategies and pride in the students’ state test scores.

“She treats everyone the same, makes learning fun and cares for others,” added Laliah’s nomination.

Hevner also represents four third-grade teachers on the school’s Liaison Committee and assists the Parent Night Committee.

Strapping on her running shoes, Hevner did Girls on the Run, in which older elementary girls each partnered with a parent or teacher to run cross-country. After a lesson on character building, leadership or teamwork, the ladies hit the trail, culminating in fall with a 5K event with other runners.

Originally from upstate Delaware, Hevner and her husband always knew they would end up at the beach, she said, and now their young children are, too.

As for the award, Hevner said, “It’s my third-grade team and the administration in the building. Without them, I wouldn’t have become the teacher I am.”

The regular meetings allow staff members to discuss lessons and share teaching strategies.

She also has classroom help from Emily Quillen, “a second set of eyes” who catches anything she missed.

“It’s like its very own community,” she said of her beloved JMC. “It’s a very accepting place.”