Life has a funny way of directing you where you want to go, according to Anna Reilly. Reilly always wanted to teach since she was little, but she started out in another career before she switched to education.
Reilly worked as an office coordinator for a medical equipment company and was a stay-at-home mom until her youngest child went into kindergarten. She received her teacher’s license after she went back to school and went into substitute teaching for Chesterfield County before becoming a kindergarten teacher at Ettrick Elementary.
“I love learning … [and] education, and I think the biggest part for me was [that] I wanted to make a positive impact in a child’s life,” Reilly said.
Reilly has spent six years at Ettrick, but she has taught for the county for 12 years. She was placed in kindergarten when she was a student teacher at Wells Elementary, and although she was initially against it, she said she fell in love with the grade and can’t see herself anywhere else.
Reilly said she loves teaching her pupils how to read and write, and wants them to have a good foundation for the rest of their time in school.
“For some of these kids, I’m the very first experience they even get into a school setting and for me to give them such a positive experience for school, that’s what I like,” Reilly said. “I wanted that for my kids and I want that for them, I want them to come and want to be here and want to love, and I want them to carry that love of learning [through] the rest of their lives.”
Reilly is content being in the classroom, and she feels she can make the most impact there. Her goal is to create a love of learning, give her pupils a good foundation, and set them up for success. She describes herself as being firm but loving, and she has high expectations for her pupils. She said she tries to incorporate fun and learning, and she is a hands-on teacher.
“I actually treat them the way I would treat my kids. They are my kids and I treat them the way I would want my kids to be treated,” Reilly said. “I take them under my wing, I correct them when I see that they’ve done something wrong, and … try to teach them life skills.”
Despite her short time as a teacher, Reilly said she has done a lot and is happy with what she’s achieved so far. She was announced as Teacher of the Year for the 2019-20 school season and said she was humbled by the honor.
Reilly’s former pupils stop by all the time to give her a hug, and sometimes two of them race in the hallway to see who will get her to first. She said that’s how she knows she’s had a positive impact: she’s still in contact with them and their parents. She hopes she’s making a difference.
Although Reilly is sad to see her pupils leave her classroom, she is proud to see them move on to other grades. She said her students will always be her babies, and she wants to attend their graduation and still have a relationship with them.
“To see them go into other grade levels, it’s sad because I’ll miss them but I know in my heart if they’re going on that I’ve prepared them to go,” Reilly said, “so I’m proud that they’re ready, and I try to keep up with them and keep track of them and make sure they’re doing okay.”