Meet the Teacher: Carpenter living her dream

As a young girl, Julie Carpenter loved to play “school,” and her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Devine, encouraged her.

Mrs. Devine gave Carpenter extra handouts to take home to disperse to her “students” — an array of stuffed animals.

“I was just drawn to teaching,” Carpenter said.

Mrs. Devine also helped Carpenter come out of her shy, timid shell. Carpenter said she hasn’t lost those traits entirely, but that’s just who she is.

Today, Carpenter is head of “Carpenter’s Crew,” a small class of eager first-graders at Calvary Christian School. Carpenter, a Lexington native, is going into her 12th year as a teacher at Calvary.

She received a bachelor degree in elementary education from Asbury University in Wilmore in 1993, and a master degree in education from Georgetown College in 2003.

She taught second and third grade in the Fayette County Public School system for five years and fourth grade at the former Hannah McClure Elementary School for two years. She has also received Orton-Gillingham reading    training during her time teaching at Calvary.

After staying home to care for her two children — Ben and Makayla — for five years, she returned to teaching in 2006.

“God was leading me here,” Carpenter said.

Eventually, her children went on to have Carpenter as their first-grade teacher.

She and her husband, Chris, have been married for 24 years. Both of their children attended Calvary Christian School from preschool through middle school, and now attend George Rogers Clark High School.

Their family is active at Calvary Christian Church.

Carpenter and her husband initially settled in Winchester because it was a central location between their workplaces — Lexington and Natural Bridge State Park.

Carpenter said she first heard of Calvary when she and her husband bought their house. They asked the sellers what they would miss about Winchester, and they mentioned Calvary. The Carpenter and her husband decided to attend Calvary one Sunday morning and loved it.

Teaching elementary school was the perfect fit for Carpenter.

“I love their excitement,” she said.

Though, she recently began working with the junior girls’ group at Calvary. She said she loves seeing what great young women there are in the community.

Carpenter said she especially enjoys helping students who may struggle with something at first and watching their growth.

As for advice for new teachers, Carpenter said to learn good classroom management skills, stay organized and ask for help when necessary.

“It is OK to cry your first year teaching because the first year of teaching is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you should give it up,” Carpenter said.

Even after being a teacher for nearly 20 years, Carpenter still has bad days. And to get through it, she remembers tomorrow is a new day.

She said she hopes to instill that attitude in her students. Carpenter said she hopes students learn God can use their passions — whatever it may be — to make the world a better place.

“I feel like God gives us each a purpose and a plan for our lives,” she said.

When Carpenter isn’t teaching, she said she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, riding bikes, gardening, playing games and traveling.

In the summer of 2011, the Carpenter family traveled together on a mission trip to Village Project Africa in Makutano, Kenya. Carpenter said it was a life-changing experience for each one of them.

“It was this journey of trusting God,” Carpenter said. “It was just an amazing experience.”

Carpenter said she hopes to go back someday. Each year, her class raises money and sends supplies to the organization.

Carpenter said she isn’t sure what else she has in mind for the future. While she and her son Ben are working toward writing and illustrating a children’s book, Carpenter she would like to dive more into helping students with their reading skills, perhaps as a tutor or reading specialist.

“At the moment, this is where God wants me to be,” Carpenter said.