Q&A with Andrea Grice, NLR Campus 2nd Grade Teacher
Andrea Grice (‘01) graduated from Harding University with a degree in Early Childhood Education and taught first grade for the North Little Rock School District for 12 years before returning to her alma mater to teach second grade at CAC’s NLR campus. We sat down to speak with her about “coming home” to CAC and asked her to share some lessons she’s learned as an educator.
You’ve been teaching young children for quite a while now and you really seem to enjoy it! Did you always have the desire to be an educator?
My mom was an educator and my grandmother was a basketball coach, so I thought to myself, “I am not doing anything in education. I am not going to be a teacher because that’s what everyone in my family is.” So I decided to go to school to be a news broadcaster. I thought I was going to be the next Katie Couric. I took maybe one class in broadcast journalism and realized I would probably have to move away from Arkansas if I really wanted to do it right, I decided that wouldn’t work. Then I decided to be a speech pathology major so that I could work with kids in the public school setting but not technically be a teacher.
Then I took a children’s literature class and absolutely fell in love with it. I fell in love with the picture books and getting up to share them with my classmates. I called my mom and told her I was changing my major to Early Childhood Education and she said, “You caved!”
That class changed my whole outlook on life and I never looked back.
What is your number one goal when you walk into the classroom each day?
To show the love of Jesus to my kids every day. I want to show them how much I love them, but really how much He loves them. Of course, academics are very important and we work very hard to master the knowledge and those skills, but in the grand scheme of things, I want them to know what is most important.
I try to create a safe, calm, fun-loving environment. They know that it’s okay to make mistakes. I make mistakes in here all of the time and they’ll correct me, and I tell them, “I’m so glad you did that.”
What is something you’ve learned from working with your students here at CAC?
That it’s okay to take the time to relax and get to know them. It’s a blessing because I really get to know my kids – where they’ve come from, what they know, what they’re struggling with, how they are doing, not only academically, but spiritually and emotionally.
Do you have a favorite unit or subject of material that you look forward to teaching every year?
There’s so many that I love. Oh – there are so many, truly. If I have to talk about just one…I really enjoy teaching reading and literacy. When we read a story, whether it’s the Polar Express or it’s Little House on the Prairie, I just feel like as we read it I can really pull out events that relate to my students and can use as teaching moments. Just because it’s on the page doesn’t mean we can’t learn directly from it!
You attended CAC from PreK4 through graduation in 2001. What is it like to be back, but on the other side of the desk? Why did you decide to teach at your alma mater?
You know when you leave a place and you say you’ll never come back? Never say never! I loved CAC, but of course, as a high schooler, I took for granted being able to go to chapel every day and have a Bible class and having the freedom to talk about God every day.
I feel like I just came home. Life came full circle and here I am again, but in the best way possible. CAC still has the same goal and the same mission they did when I went to school here – to teach and serve others and to show the love of God.
I remember sitting in chapel on my first day back and thinking that it was so surreal. I got chills. It’s wonderful, because here they trust me to teach and they trust me to do the right thing.
I feel so incredibly blessed and thankful for the opportunity to teach at CAC. Every day I come to school with a smile on my face just knowing today I will make a difference in my students’ lives. I want my students to know how much I love them and that God loves them much more. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I am helping prepare my students for work in God’s kingdom.
What’s an interesting fact about you that some people might not know?
When I was in high school at CAC I had the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall in NYC along with other CAC and Harding Academy students. It was an amazing experience!