The VFW (Veterans’s of Foreign Wars) Teacher of the Year Award contest recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Each year an elementary, junior high and high school teacher is chosen. Heather Kirby, a third grade teacher at the Altus Christian Academy (ACA) was the Oklahoma winner for the elementary division, Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Kirby is married to Kory Kirby and they have three children, Kennedy, Erick and Kaleb. Originally from Minnesota, she arrived in Altus as a kindergartner, and was blessed with her foster family, Dick and Opal Chapman. Heather is a 2001 Altus High School graduate and received her Elementary Education teaching degree from Southwestern in Weatherford.
Kirby substituted for a year in the Altus Public School System and was searching for a full time teaching position when a friend invited her to the ACA Spring Festival. Kirby said after attending the festival she felt a positive vibe, and believed God was saying “move forward and apply for a teaching job.”
The ACA mission is to build excellence in education through biblical principles, and it goes hand-in-hand with Kirby’s beliefs as well. She said she loves that she is able to incorporate Jesus into her curriculum, and enjoys the class sizes and the awesome support of the administration, parents and co-workers.
Engaging activities such as field trips, crafts and speakers helps students make study lessons more meaningful, are tools in teaching that she loves. Kirby said she appreciates the trust she has received from ACA Superintendent Dana Darby and the parents who entrust their Christian beliefs in allowing her to teach their children.
The VFW recognizes ways the teachers promote students on civic responsibility, flag etiquette, governmental activities, Veteran’s Day activities and patriotism. Her students created a mini-replica of the American flag while learning the history and symbolism of it. They used pillow cases to learn how to fold the American flag and then practiced with the ACA school flag. Veteran’s attended the annual ACA Veteran’s Day program, and then returned to classrooms to share about the military branch they served, and their experiences.
Kirby said the kids are her reminder of why she teaches, having the ability to impact their lives in a forever way. Growing up in an unstable environment as a kid made Kirby seek out more than just an education from her teachers. She flourished in the the grades and classrooms of teachers that believed, encouraged and loved her. Kirby emphasized that her teachers looked inside of her to find her greatness, and made her feel loved, safe, valuable and accepted. In her role as a teacher and in life, she tries replicate that form of teaching.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077