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Calvary teacher stumbled into career, celebrates 20 years on the job

Nearly two decades ago, as Kelli Stevenson was dropping off her oldest son at Calvary Christian School, she saw the staff struggling. Administrators were doubling as teachers, and the class size was growing. Stevenson saw an opportunity. She had just taken a year off from teaching to spend with her then-newborn child, but she saw her future.

“I said to (the administrator) ‘Next year I could be the kindergarten teacher, and you can be the administrator,’” Stevenson laughed. “She said ‘You’re hired; I’ll get the paperwork…’ Easiest job interview ever.”

She has been there since.

Stevenson is going into her 20th year at Calvary. She is currently the middle school language arts and literature teacher.

“It is the biggest blessing to be here, getting to work in a Christian environment and teach,” she said.

Stevenson has worked in Christian schools her entire teaching career.

Stevenson is initially from Ashland but found herself in Winchester after graduating from Morehead State University. Her first teaching job was at Clark County Christian School.

When Stevenson first started at Calvary, the school was housed in one small building, and they only taught up to kindergarten. After 20 years, the building has expanded, and they now teach up to eighth grade with plans to grow even more in the future.

“One year we decided ‘Hey, let’s jump into middle school,’” Stevenson said. “That’s the year I jumped from elementary to middle school, and then I’ve been teaching middle school ever since.”

Post high school graduation, Stevenson said she had no idea what she wanted to do as a career. She just knew she loved her teachers in high school, especially her high school English teacher, so she thought maybe, she’d give education a try.

“I didn’t have this burning desire to be a teacher,” she said. “I just knew I loved (my high school English teacher) so much, and I guess without me knowing, she had influenced me to try elementary education. I did, and it was the best-uneducated guess I took. When I did, I felt like I was home.”

Stevenson joked she stumbled into teaching by accident, but looking back, she can see how she’s always been on this path.

Being the oldest of her siblings, she was regularly teaching and watching over them. Stevenson had taught Sunday School and Bible school as well. So, when Stevenson finally began doing observations and student teaching, she felt home.

“It just felt like that’s exactly where I needed to be,” she said. “I didn’t want to sit back and observe anymore. I wanted to be up there and do the job for the teacher.”

Stevenson said she learned a lot from her experiences with teachers growing up: the good — her high school English teacher — and the bad — the fourth grade.

“I felt like I didn’t get anything out of the fourth grade,” Stevenson said. “I cried all the time … I just knew I didn’t want any other student to do that. I wanted to be better than that. That motivated me to not only be the best teacher I can be but also be kind and generous.”

Stevenson said her favorite part about teaching is when the students just get it such as recently when the students were learning about adjective clauses, and suddenly, they started answering questions correctly. That is rewarding, she said, “when kids have this moment of ‘I get this; I understand what she’s saying.’”

Stevenson works to make sure her students not only learn the material but also learn how to be good people.

“I want them to become a person who sees another person’s needs first,” Stevenson said. “If I can teach them a little bit about Jesus, compassion, and loving others, everything else will fall into place.”

Every day, Stevenson said she keeps going because of the difference she has made and continues to make in many students’ lives.

“Just last Wednesday during Chapel, one of the kindergarten classes were performing a play,” she said. “And I look back, and a former student I had in first grade 24, 25 years ago … She was a parent of a kindergartener on stage … Seeing her grin, wave at me and remember my name. Just knowing that I’ve been able to speak to so many young kids lives … I love my job, so blessed to be here.”

Stevenson said she doesn’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon.

Throughout her years of teaching, Stevenson has learned many lessons herself. She’s discovered the importance of establishing a work-life balance and finding a good support system.

And she always offers a bit of practical advice to new teachers.  

“Get some supportive shoes,” Stevenson said. “That’ll make or break a day.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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