Camelot Escambia County Teacher says Success Starts with Building Student Rapport
For educator Kristian Bivins, being awarded Teacher of the Year for Camelot Academy of Escambia County was an unexpected honor, and one she never thought about achieving.
“Actually, it all feels very surreal to me,” she said. “I knew I was doing my best as a teacher, but I never thought, ‘Maybe they’ll make me Teacher of the Year.’ I was just doing what I know and would have performed at a high level regardless. It’s a great honor to be noticed for doing what I love to do, though.”
Bivins has been with Camelot Education since August of 2017, teaching 5th grade. According to Escambia Academy’s executive director, Andrew Maxwell, she does a fantastic job.
“She has a great ability to connect with her students – to meet them on their level. She’s creative, performs above and beyond what’s expected of her, and is always willing to help the team,” Maxwell said.
Camelot Academy of Escambia County in Pensacola, Florida, provides an avenue for remediation and acceleration for students with disciplinary violations. Students in this program are referred to the program by their home campus and eventually return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.
Bivins, who is 26, said children emulate what they see, and her teaching style, combined with what she’s learning by working at Camelot Academy of Escambia County, helps have a positive influence on her students.
“Children are always watching adults,” she said. “One of the things I was taught was to build a rapport with my students, to reach them where they are mentally and emotionally. Some of them may not like you, but you still want to be able to reach them; you give a little, and you get a little. One of the main things I have learned here is to trust the process and the educational structure we work in. It takes longer with some students, but we don’t give up.”
Bivins reflects about one student in particular.
“I could see it was going to be very difficult to build a rapport with this young student,” Bivins said. “The student wanted to do well and was very smart, but they came from a home where the environment was just terrible, and in response, the student built an emotional shell around them. What I realized was how similar our backgrounds were. Once I recognized that, it changed my way of thinking about this student, and I was able to reach out to them more appropriately. The student’s home life didn’t change, but they did. This student began to come out of their shell and began to interact with me and other students more and more. This student began to blossom and began to see what they were capable of accomplishing.”
Bivins said working at Camelot Academy of Escambia County is richly rewarding and provides an excellent foundation for educators to grow in their profession. “We serve students experiencing difficulty, and that can be challenging. But I would tell teachers who are considering working with vulnerable students to trust the techniques and structure that have worked so well for children over time. If you can focus on that, you can teach anywhere.”
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