• Jamie Beard: Third-grade teacher, Benner Elementary School

    beard Jamie Beard aspired to be a marine biologist. It came in second grade when her teacher at Park Forest Elementary School sparked an interest in her for the ocean.

    And then she took a biology class – figuring out that it wasn’t what she actually wanted to do.

    “I started to realize the teachers in my life all had an incredible impact on me,” Beard said. “I’m a third-grade teacher now and my very favorite teacher was my third-grade teacher Mrs. (Tina) Schultz, so I think I decided to become a teacher when I realized my hopes and dreams of marine biology weren’t going to work out, and all of the inspiration I had was really from teachers in my life who’ve done great things for me, and I wanted to do that same thing for kids.”

    Beard has been teaching at Benner Elementary School for more than 11 years. She first started as a long-term substitute in second-grade, followed by a majority of her time after that in first-grade. Two years ago, she transferred to third-grade, which Beard said “has been a lot of fun,” while also reconnecting with some of the same students she had once before just two grade levels prior.

    “My biggest focus each day is to build relationships with my students,” she said. “The more I get to know them, the easier it is to connect with them in the classroom, and that enforces their eagerness to learn and do well for you, but my ultimate goal is also helping make them want to work for themselves.”

    Attributing some of her teaching style to what she remembers from Mrs. Shultz, Beard said she provides her students with some educational freedoms, brings genuine care to class, builds positive relationships with students and families, and finds ways to add fun to class each school day.

    “Everything was a game in her class, which perhaps speaks to my competitive side, too,” said Beard, also adding that she regularly partakes in recess activities with her students, such as foursquare, kick ball and racing games during field day at the end of the school year.

    When walking into Beard’s classroom, there are tallies on the whiteboard next to the names “Mrs. Beard” and “Class” – which the class has about double of. That’s the score from an ongoing game of “guess my animal” where Beard thinks of an animal and the students must predict what it is after asking 20 questions. By the end of the game, if they’re able to guess correctly, the class gets a tally. If not, that tally goes to Beard.

    “I’m in a pretty rough spot right now,” she said with a laugh. “I’m super competitive and I don’t like to lose, but there are also valuable lessons in losing, which we learn about together.”

    Beard, a State College native, graduated from Juniata College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and early childhood education. She also has a master’s degree in educational development and strategies from Wilkes University.

    When she’s not in the classroom, Beard said she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and two children – Camden, a second-grade student in Nicole Harris’ class at Benner Elementary and Cadence, 3. They spend a lot of time outside, camping, hiking, mountain biking and more. She also enjoys reading, and finding good books to bring back to the 8- and 9-year-old students in her class in an effort to help spark a love of literature among them.