By Jordan Beach 

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Kelly Thigpen

In just under two years since graduating from Reinhardt University’s Price School of Education, Kelly Thigpen earned recognition for her hard work and dedication as an educator.

Thigpen completed her education degree at Reinhardt in December 2018 and began teaching at North Newton Elementary School in North Carolina in January 2019. On the first teacher workday of the 2020-21 school year she received the title of “Beginning Teacher of the Year,” awarded to educators within their first three years of teaching in Newton-Conover City Schools.

“I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of honor. Being a teacher is without a doubt my calling in life. I have been pursuing this career for essentially my entire life,” said Thigpen.

When she first accepted the position, Thigpen held the goal of wanting to utilize her skills from life experience and her college education in a way that would grow the children in her class.

“I worked incredibly hard throughout my first year and was always looking for more ways to improve my teaching,” she said. “So, getting ‘Beginning Teacher of the Year’ for the entire district meant the world to me. It is an honor to work alongside such a wonderful district.”

Thigpen described her first year of teaching as “amazing, challenging and incredibly rewarding.” While navigating the new environment and learning the school-level expectations felt overwhelming at times, she found it to be a rewarding start to her teaching career.

“I remember the night before my first day of work. I was feeling incredibly nervous and uneasy about the start of the school year. However, when my 25 fourth and fifth graders walked through my classroom door, I knew this is exactly where I was meant to be. Throughout the course of the school year, we learned, laughed and grew together. I taught my students what they needed to learn throughout the school year, and they continually taught me how to better myself and my teaching.”

During her time in Reinhardt’s Price School, Thigpen learned the valuable skill of differentiation, enabling her to recognize different needs in each student in the subjects they learn. Thigpen believes it is her job to plan her lessons according to what each student needs in order to learn and grow.

“Not one student who walks through your door will be the same as the next. The professors at Reinhardt helped me identify what differentiation looks like in an everyday classroom and how to best implement it to benefit all my students.”

Thigpen earning this award is just the beginning of one of her specific career goals: earning a district title of teacher of the year during her time as an educator.

In addition to starting her career, Thigpen also married her husband Gordon, a 2017 Reinhardt alum. The couple moved to North Carolina where they have found a church in which to get involved. In her free time, Thigpen enjoys hiking and exploring the mountains of western North Carolina and keeping up with Reinhardt football.