By Sue Curry Jones
Working with children has always been a goal for Becky Heinlein, and now as a third-grade teacher at Ava Elementary, the reality of the dream is better than imagined. However, before the teaching opportunities materialized, Becky and her husband Matt found enjoyment in working with kids at the church, and for eight years, they served local youths and facilitated a program for nursery age tots through fifth-grade students.
As an educator, Becky enjoys her role as a teacher of bright young minds, and living her dream in the community where she grew up, is truly the “icing on the cake”. This is the ideal situation for her, and she is happy and excited to be teaching in her hometown.
Becky accomplished her goals and aspirations by achieving a degree in education through Drury University.
Upon finishing methods classes at the Drury campus in Springfield, she fulfilled student teaching requirements in Ava under the direction and supervision of Connie Dean.
For Becky, student teaching was a positive experience for several reasons. First and foremost, it was the confirmation she was one step closer to achieving her lifelong goal of teaching, but it also proved to be a big plus in another way as well –– it was a new venue for friendships and camaraderie.
During student teaching, Becky had the opportunity to meet and share the challenge with three other hopeful student teachers –– Leanna Elliott, Chantelle Emmerson and Ashley Clayton. Leanna, who now teaches kindergarten, student taught first grade, Ashley was in third-grade under Penny Loftin, and Chantelle, was in second grade with Karen Hollrah Gray.
Today, as teachers and colleagues, Becky and Leanna both serve students at Ava Elementary.
Prior to Ava, Becky taught second grade in the Mountain Grove school district. She definitely has fond memories of the position as it was her first job as an educator, and first year of teaching. She enjoyed the students and campus environment, but deep down, it doesn’t quite compare to the joy and satisfaction of teaching at home.
Becky graduated from Ava High School in 2002. During those years she was a member of Pep Club for four years and a member of the volleyball team for one year. She took French classes during her freshman and sophomore years, and also joined the French Club.
In high school, Becky thoroughly enjoyed the sciences, and took many classes under teacher Payree Short. Heinlein recalls the classes were always interesting, but in looking back to those subjects, today she wonders why she found botany, the study of plants, and anatomy & physiology, so fascinating and intriguing. But, nonetheless, the classes grabbed her interest and that was a good thing.
Positives were also gleaned from teacher Pat Henry who taught psychology and video production classes. As a student, Becky found Henry to be personable. Her caring actions left a memorable impression.
As an Ava kindergarten student, however, Becky’s first introduction to the elementary starts with a memory she will most likely never forget….a spanking.
On that occasion, Becky recalls being in the school restroom and bragging to a female friend and classmate with a “see what I can do” dare. Immediately, Becky jumped high and pulled up to rest atop the partition wall, and then took roost on the highest bar.
Needless to say, this adventurous feat of athleticism was tattled to her classroom teacher, Doris Morrison, and consequences prevailed. Today, however, the memory makes her laugh and she recognizes the punishment served a purpose. She also admits there were no more grandiose attempts to perform monkey bar stunts in the restroom. She did not want another spanking.
Becky met husband Matt during his senior year in school, and the two started dating two weeks before his graduation from Ava. They married within a year, and today, they have a beautiful family of three boys and one girl. Daughter Miquia is 10-years-old, Mason, 8, and the twins, Mac and Colt, will be one-year-old this month.
Devoted to family, Becky notes the twins are taking their first steps and doing the “wobbly” walk, and Miquia and Mason are involved in sports. Miquia plays basketball, softball and volleyball, and Mason stays active in football, basketball and baseball. It’s a schedule that keeps the family busy.
Becky readily admits that the road to fulfilling her dream has not been calm, but the support of her husband has always been strong. In fact, in 2011, the couple renewed their vows and Matt surprised Becky with a beautiful church wedding, complete with family and friends, and all the special touches, including a wedding dress, flowers and ring. The special occasion was also on her birthday, and it was a wonderful gift. For Becky, it was perfect.
Today, as they celebrate nearly 12 years as a family, they look forward to building their new home, in the countryside, northwest of Ava. The project is slated to start this week.
As an educator, Becky says her main goal is to smoothly transition students into the Common Core Curriculum. To facilitate this, she emphasizes positive reinforcement strategies, and encourages individual learning through student interaction and group activities. Students generally find the format enjoyable, and it aids in retention.
Next year, as a personal goal, she has started formulating plans to begin a masters program, with a focus in speech pathology.
However, today, she enjoys teaching third-grade students, and happily comments that she has a great group of students this year. They “talk a lot” but it is a really good group. She has 19 students this year.
Becky feels the most rewarding part of the teaching profession is the chance to build relationships and make a difference in student’s lives. That prospect is the favorite part of her job, and quite possibly, it is a trait she learned from Pat Henry.
And, in future years, when asked about her students, there is no doubt the response will be similar to today. It may sound something like this –
“It’s a great group this year, they may talk a little too much, but it’s a really good group of kids”.
And, that is what caring teachers do.
Becky is the daughter of Vicki and Tom Durham, and Dennis and Buffy Posey, all of Ava.
Editor’s Note: This is the final article in this series about Ava alumni returning home to teach in the school district. Over the course of eight weeks, we have featured Clint Hall, Rhonda Little, Cody Whitaker, Ginger Gastineau, Jesse Sawyer, Aaron Dalton, Wes Davis, and Becky Heinlein. This group is an outstanding mix of personalities and achievers.