When Sara Childress Kesler '03 was growing up, she knew exactly what she wanted to be a teacher.
Even up until she got to UNCG, she was set on teaching. Then, in her sophomore year, she took a public speaking course and found she was good at it. Good enough that she changed her major to communication studies.
So while she worked at a day care in the afternoons, she studied public relations and event planning and even picked up a minor in business.
Then she graduated. I could not find a job at all, she recalls.
To make ends meet, she worked in an optometrist's office and taught dance classes as well. It was in dance class that fate caught up with her.
One of the women she taught with had a sister-in-law who was a principal in an Alamance County school. She knew that school had an opening for a special education teacher.
Kesler got the job.
The first day she walked into the classroom, she felt overwhelmed. But Kesler left with a different sensation.
I am a teacher, she remembers repeating to herself. I felt blessed. It became real clear that this is what I'm supposed to do.
Others agreed. In 2010, she was named the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Teacher of Excellence for Exceptional Children.
The children in her care range from those with mild cognitive disabilities to those with autism or ADHD. As the only special education teacher at Sylvan Elementary School, she works with 30 children from kindergarten through fifth grade.
In the seven years since she started teaching, Kesler has gotten her teaching licensure from Elon University and expects to finish her master's degree this August. And it may not end there.
I want to make an impact across the board, she says. Eventually, that may take me out of the classroom. I want to be able to do more. I want us to be able to serve our kids better, make our relationships better.
But for now, she loves it all the relationships with the students, her colleagues and the parents.
There's something new every day, she says. I learn every day. I feel I'm growing as a person and as a professional.