Just four years into his teaching career at North Elementary School in Morgantown, W.Va., Kevin Kieffer learned that he had been selected as the school’s nominee for Monongalia County Teacher of the Year. Then, Kieffer learned that he’d won.
“That was a surprise,” Kieffer said. “North Elementary just has absolutely amazing teachers, so to get the nomination from them was such an honor. And then, to find out that I got the award for the entire county was baffling.”
Though Kieffer has been recognized for his excellence as an educator, he didn’t always aspire to become a teacher. While in high school, Kieffer considered becoming an architect and then enrolled in culinary arts courses to become a chef. When neither option felt like the right fit, Kieffer enrolled at WVU Parkersburg as an education major.
“I realized as I was coming out of school that teaching might be something that was up my alley, but I didn’t know for sure until I took my first education course,” Kieffer said. “I had observational hours inside of a first-grade classroom at the time, and as soon as I left on my first day, I knew that teaching was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
After finishing his bachelor’s degree at WVU Parkersburg, Kieffer followed a friend to Morgantown and began working as a long-term substitute teacher for Monongalia County. He also enrolled in CEHS’ online master’s degree program in Instructional Design and Technology, which allowed him the flexibility to work full-time and further his education.
“I don’t know that I could have gotten a master’s degree had it not been online,” Kieffer said. “Since I had already graduated college, I wasn’t interested in going back to college. The online aspect of [the program] was really great because it was self-paced.”
According to Kieffer, a critical component of his master’s program was learning the rationale behind certain teaching methods. This background was helpful in informing him about how to use classroom technology in the most beneficial way.
“When it comes to technology, we need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing in the classroom and the best ways to introduce things to students,” Kieffer said. “We need to do this in an effective and efficient way so we’re not wasting time.”
Kieffer completed his master’s program in 2013 and stayed in Morgantown as a long-term substitute at North Elementary, a position that led to his current role as a fourth-grade teacher. Before accepting the permanent teaching position there, Kieffer was already aware that the school would provide him with the environment he needed to be a successful teacher.
“I ended up staying here because, in the years that I spent as a substitute, I absolutely loved the school system and the support that you get from administration and from the board office,” Kieffer said.
In his classroom, Kieffer works to educate students in both academics and in important life skills. Most recently, he’s emphasized goal-setting and accountability with his class.
“I really push for student accountability,” Kieffer said. “I want my students to work hard because they want to work hard, not because that’s what I expect them to do. It’s definitely made a big different because they set their own goals, and they’re looking to be successful in those.”
Beyond his role as a fourth-grade teacher, Kieffer serves as an instructor to aspiring teachers enrolled at WVU, teaching Education 601: Contexts of Education. Though he typically teaches young children, Kieffer found this new experience to be rewarding and challenging.
“I was a little nervous to go from teaching fourth grade to teaching adults, but I found out I loved it,” Kieffer said. “Teaching more college classes is probably something I'd look to do in the future. It was a great experience.”
As for Kieffer’s other future plans, he’s considering pursuing his math certification and possibly his principal certification For the time being, however, he’s happy to be where he is.
“I don’t see anything changing in the near future because I absolutely love being in the classroom,” Kieffer said.
As the Monongalia County Teacher of the Year, Kieffer will be a candidate for the 2018 West Virginia State Teacher of the Year. The results will be announced in September 2018.