Katie Farr’s favorite game to play with her first-graders right now is called trash-ketball.
The game is simple: Farr organizes her class into teams, asks them trivia questions, and if they give correct answers, the team gets to attempt to shoot a piece of trash into a wastebasket. If they make it, the students on the team earn an extra point on ClassDojo, a classroom app that Farr uses to organize a points system where students can earn small gifts from a “treasure chest” at the end of the week.
Farr can’t help but incorporate sports into her teaching at Shiloh Point Elementary School. The Buford-native played basketball, softball and volleyball growing up in Gwinnett County. Farr stuck with softball when she attended Buford High School.
School: Shiloh Point Elementary
Years teaching: 5, all at Shiloh Point
After the most hectic of teaching days, Farr gets home and watches some athletic event on TV, preferably a Braves game. She’s a devoted fan of the Falcons and University of Georgia football, too. There’s a Falcons flag hanging on a board at the front of her classroom. “RISE UP,” it says.
The Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for December talked with us about her favorite subject growing up, the biggest lesson she learned about teaching during her first year and her most embarrassing teaching moment.
FCN: When did you decide to become a teacher?
Farr: "I started off always wanting to be a teacher. I grew up with a family of teachers, so I was just around teachers all the time. And I've always loved to be around kids. When I was in high school, I worked at a daycare, so that kind of got me in the wheelhouse of being around kids and working with them. And ever since I got out of college [at the University of North Georgia], I just knew. I never changed my mind."
FCN: What was your favorite subject growing up?
Farr: "I liked math. I just had really good math teachers that made math seem easier for me. They would go through different ways that you could about learning math. I just always connected with them."
FCN: Who were your favorite teachers?
Farr: "I liked my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. [Jo] Arnette, [at Harmony Elementary School]. She was one of my favorite math teachers as well. I remember her giving us a specific job, and I remember I could get the balls we used outside to play with. She would let me go 3 or 4 minutes earlier, and I could get the balls and bring them out for recess. She was just a really good teacher all around.
"I remember my second-grade teacher, Ms. [Vicky] Dinnan. She used to read "Junie B. Jones" to us, and she had a specific reading voice, and I kind of incorporate that now with first-graders, because I love reading "Junie B. Jones."
FCN: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?
Farr: "Building relationships and building connections with the kids. Getting to know them on a personal level, like what they're interested in. I just like to build those relationships and connections with them."
FCN: What’s the most important thing you learned during your first year of teaching?
Farr: "My first year, it was really hard. I was here until probably until 9 or 10 o'clock at night every single night rewriting lesson plans. I just thought I had to learn everything about teaching, I guess. I got sucked in, but I loved it.
"Now, I'm leaving earlier, and I know what I have to teach now and what I can let go. You don't have to learn everything in your first year. It's OK to have pieces that you learn. Just take it a bit at a time."
FCN: What’s your most embarrassing teacher moment so far?
Farr: "Whenever I go to read a book to the kids, we always come to the carpet. The rocking chair is usually right behind me. One day, during my first year, I went to sit down and completely busted it. I fell back, and I was so embarrassed.
"But I looked up, and I had like 50 little hands reaching out, and my students were saying, 'Are you OK?'"