Hicks finds a home at Justice Elementary

From Germany to New York, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Lexington and now Winchester, Holly Hicks thinks she has finally found home.

“I’m done with moving,” Hicks said, laughing.

Hicks, a third-grade teacher at Justice Elementary School, lived in Lexington for about 13 years before moving to Winchester last year to start her new job at Justice.

Hicks said she moved around a lot as a kid and has lived in small towns all over the eastern United States.

“We always lived in really small towns, and then we moved to Lexington when I was in middle school, which was just like a giant city to me like it,” Hicks said. “It was a huge culture shock.”

Hicks said her husband is a Winchester native. While she isn’t from Winchester, she is happy to be here and plans on staying.

“I love it,” Hicks said. “…I was very happy to move back to a smaller town. I just like the pace.”

It wasn’t easy always moving. When Hicks moved to Lexington from Michigan in middle school, she said she had a hard time adjusting.

“It was a difficult transition,” Hicks said. “I learned a lot from that about how you can’t plan for your life, and you might not see everything working out. But in the end, you see how it worked out for good, and so that helped me a lot.”

Hicks said moving around a lot played a part in her becoming a teacher.

“That’s part of the reason I wanted to be a teacher is those are the people that helped make those transitions easier when I moved as a kid,” Hicks said. “When you’d have a good teacher, it made a big difference.”

Hicks has been teaching for almost five years but is in her first year teaching at Justice. Hicks received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Kentucky on a full scholarship.

“I’m proud of getting my scholarship to UK and keeping it,” Hicks said. “It was hard to keep it.”

Hicks said in college, she received her first-ever C and almost went on probation which would result in the loss of her scholarship.

“Just how hard I worked that second semester to make sure that you know I didn’t go on probation and the rest of college just working hard and learning how to study and work hard in school, I’m very proud of that,” she said.

Hicks said she has wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten.

“There was always something attached to it,” she said. “When I was little (it was) ballerina teacher, gymnastics teacher but teacher was the only thing that ever stuck.”

This year is Hick’s first year teaching public school. Previously, she taught preschool at a private school in Lexington for three and a half years.

“I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher,” Hicks said. “I had a great fifth-grade teacher that solidified that this is what I wanted to do.”

Now, she said she’s ecstatic to be teaching the third grade.

“I love teaching third; it’s like the ideal age bracket for me,” Hicks said. “…I always thought I would want littles like kindergarten, first, second and then I did my student teaching in fifth grade, and I loved it. I loved getting to teach a little higher content and the discussions they would have about what we were reading especially I enjoy that, which we’re able to do in third grade as well.”

Outside of work, Hicks said she enjoys spending time with her husband, her dog, Sal,  binge-watching “The Office,” baking, doing cross stitch, sewing, hiking, listening to old music – her favorites, Elvis and Frank Sinatra. She even collects old vinyl records.

Hicks said this week her third graders discussed protecting the environment, global warming and more all because of a book they had read as a class.

Hicks said she loves teaching reading and math.

“I like teaching reading which is not a surprise because that was my favorite subject in school,” she said. “I do like one thing about our math curriculum is that it teaches multiple strategies on how to solve certain things which are different than when we went to school, and there was one way to do it. And if you couldn’t figure it out, you were out of luck. So I like seeing in their eyes when they’ve been struggling with one strategy and I’m like, or we can do it this way. And you’ll see that it works for that one kid that couldn’t get it the other way.”

On the other hand, Hicks said it could be difficult getting students to focus.

“I think that would be the most difficult thing, focus and keeping them focused, keeping them engaged,” she said.

Hicks said teachers are recommended to change up something within instruction about every six to eight minutes whether it be the way she is presenting a topic or changing the activity. Hicks said it could also be challenging, motivating students to read and do homework outside of school, but she tries to set goals for herself too such as reading so many books a year and has her kids help keep her accountable.

Hicks said she’d be sad to see her first group of kids at Justice move on to the fourth grade, but knows they’ll do well.

“I have a great group of kids,” Hicks said. “It’s crazy. You always hear teachers refer to their kids as my kids and when I go home when I talk about my classes, I say, my kids, because they feel like my kids.”

Hicks said the students’ love makes it all worthwhile. Recently, one of her students gave her a note that said ‘I love you’ and it meant a lot, Hicks said.

“I think it’s important that they know that there’s someone in their lives that care and expects them to do well,” Hicks said.

Hicks said she tries to teach her students how to be kind, too. The students read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, a book about a fifth-grade boy’s experience living with an extreme facial disfigurement, in the fall and learned about empathy, compassion and kindness.

“There’s a quote in the book that says ‘always choose to be kinder than necessary,’” she said. “Hearing their responses on that and then seeing how that affected how they treat each other and how they talk about the treatment of others that they might see, I think it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve experienced teaching wise because that’s that’s the goal. Some of them are going to be all A students, but I want them all to be better people.”

She said it’s important just to ask her students what they think about whatever topic they may be learning about that week.

“I think that they enjoy being able to share what they think,” Hicks said. “I think a lot of times they don’t get asked what they think about things like that.”

Hicks said as a teacher, she is helping raise her students, but even more so, she’s an advocate for her students and their well being.

“Being a teacher is a lot of work,” Hicks said. “It’s a calling.”

And if she could leave any piece of advice for her students, Hicks said it would always be to give their best effort.

“It might not seem like it’s important to do your very best work on a spelling word homework, but it’s learning that to have that internal motivation to do best, no matter what’s at stake,” Hicks said. “…I think that’s an issue with our society now is people want to do the bare minimum…I don’t know. I feel like people would be happier and more fulfilled if they knew they were giving their best.”

As for the future, Hicks said she is currently deciding on what to get her master’s degree in, but in the meantime, she’s home.

“I’d like to stay in Winchester,” Hicks said. “I love it here.”