POCA, W.Va. — Focus, intuition, and energy are just some of the qualities that have landed Natalie Breedlove the title of Putnam County Teacher of the Year.
Breedlove, 39, who teaches kindergarten at Poca Elementary School, recently described the heart of her teaching success.
One glance around the neat and tidy classroom reveals that this is a place of learning. From the posters and charts covering the walls to the hands-on stations around the room, everything is designed to help and enrich young minds.
But all of these materials would be useless without a teacher who knows what she is doing.
Breedlove has been a teacher in Putnam County for nine years, and she has been at Poca Elementary for the past five.
She received her bachelors in education for pre-K through 8th grade in 1997 and her masters in specific learning disabilities for kindergarten through grade 12 in 2002 from Marshall University. She also has a Wilson Reading Certification level one from 2004 and National Board Certification in early childhood literacy for kindergarten through 5th from 2010.
"You have to love the profession," she said, adding that it takes "a lot of dedication, a lot of time."
Teaching a roomful of kindergartners all day and keeping them interested is no small task. For Breedlove, it's a matter of using what the kids are interested in, listening to their conversations, and "following their lead" to keep them excited about learning.
Poca Elementary Principal Lexie Damous has seen this type of student engagement in action.
"Mrs. Breedlove is a master at redirecting. She keeps her students engaged, which means she is equally engaged."
Damous said oftentimes Breedlove is so focused on teaching that she doesn't realize the principal has stopped by and observed the classroom on a routine visit.
While Breedlove doesn't hesitate to say that teaching kindergarten is "the most mentally and physically challenging," she is also quick to add it is "the most rewarding grade level because of the progress you see."
Students go from learning to tie their shoes and to hold a pencil correctly at the beginning of the year to reading and writing sentences by the end of the year.
For such a foundational school year, Breedlove strives to make the adjustment process as smooth as possible — for parents and children.
Susan Felber, whose sons both have had Breedlove for kindergarten, knows firsthand about this adjustment.