by BRITTANY HALL
Teachers are like North Stars, guiding the younger generation towards a prosperous life and driving away the darkness of the world with the light of knowledge. Their patience and dedication deserve much recognition, because like Malcom X said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery and although I am not a teacher, there is one who is the perfect example of what it takes to be in this noble profession; 37-year-old Keri Grimm Claxton.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, even as a child,” she said with a smile.
Born and raised right here in Emanuel County, Claxton knew early on that she had a passion for inspiring young minds. She has been married to the love of her life, Richard, for 13 years now and they have two precious nine year old twin girls, Hadley and Emma and are also the parents of the newest addition, their seven month old baby boy, Cole. Claxton is currently in her 15th year of teaching, all of which have been served right here in Swainsboro.
“I knew that I wanted to do something in my life where I could work with small children and make a difference in their lives. Knowing that I can positively impact their lives is such a blessing to me,” she said.
Claxton currently holds the title of the K-2 STEAM teacher at Swainsboro Primary School. However, her journey began when she was still a student, explaining that many of her own teachers inspired her to become the educator that she is today, through their own love of education. Immediately after graduating from high school, she followed her passion and began her college career in pursuit of an Associate Degree of Arts in Education from Middle Georgia College. At the time, Georgia Southern University had a satellite school on the campus of Middle Georgia in Dublin, so she chose to continue her education there and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. “Honestly, during my time as a student, I was blessed to have many teachers that laid the foundation for me to be the educator that I am today. They all had their own unique ways that they touched my life, and now I am able to give that back to my students.”
In 2009 she began her teaching career at Swainsboro Pre-K, where she taught for four years. During this time, she also dedicated herself to furthering her own education by attending Walden University to obtain her Master's Degree in Elementary Reading and Math. After graduating in 2011, she said her goodbyes to Swainsboro preschool and began a new adventure at Swainsboro Elementary, where she taught fourth grade Science and Social Studies and third Grade Math and Science before making her final move to Swainsboro Primary School in 2020.
“Swainsboro Primary School became my home three years ago and I can say that we have some of the best teachers and staff members in Emanuel County. I truly feel that they have a heart that gives their very best to our students. The love and compassion that is bestowed onto our students amazes me each day. I’m so thankful that the Lord opened the door for me to make the move to SPS,” she said through a thankful heart.
Even outside of teaching, Claxton stays very busy. When she’s not cheering on her daughters from the sidelines of the Swainsboro softball fields, she’s reading a good book or enjoying her time with family and friends. She’s also somewhat of an aquaphobe, and spends much of her time visiting the beach, river, or lake anytime she gets the chance.
Now that you’ve met the teacher and read her story, read her Q/A’s below to further understand Keri Claxton’s incredible values of teaching and how she’s changing and inspiring young lives in our community.
What do you find most rewarding in your career?
Claxton: Over the last 14 years, I feel that I have been able to touch many lives in a positive way. It’s very rewarding to see students that I taught in the past graduate from high school and are working toward becoming successful adults and know that I had a small part to play in that.
Do you feel that each of your students have left a lasting impression on you?
Claxton: Absolutely! I feel that each student that I have had the privilege to teach was placed in my classroom for a reason. Although no two have had the same story or background, they all have left their marks on my life. If it wasn’t for all of the students that I’ve taught and experiences with them, I would not be the educator I am today.
What advice would you like to give to new or upcoming educators?
Claxton: Love what you do and do what you love! Teaching can become stressful at times, but remember why you are in that classroom and that tomorrow is a new day. Never let one bad day determine how you feel about yourself as a teacher.
How does it make you feel to see the success that many of your previous students have become?
Claxton: Many of the first “babies” that I taught in Pre-K have now started graduating from high school and starting their adult lives. It makes me extremely proud to see them making their marks on this world. Although I had each one of them for a short time in their lives, I’m so thankful that I was able to touch their lives in a positive way. It blesses my heart when I run into them in town or see their posts on social media and they are thriving.
If you could tell your past students or future students one thing that you hope will stick with them all throughout life, what would that be?
Claxton: When life throws you curveballs, don’t give up, just keep pushing through! You are capable of anything that you put your mind to. Just remember to keep Christ first in everything that you do and life will turn out just as He has planned.
What’s a favorite memory or some of your favorite memories that you have from your time as an educator?
Claxton: This is a funny story that happened to me when I first started here at SPS. You have to remember I had moved from 3rd graders who are independent for the most part so you don’t have to give them quite as many directions. I was in a Kindergarten classroom and the students were completing an activity but had to put their names on their papers before I could take them up. I gave them the instructions to put their name on their papers and then to “put their pencils up”. I turned around to do something on the computer and when I turned back around to face them, all 20 pencils were up in the AIR! It tickled me but it was also an eye opener because I had forgotten that they take everything very literally.
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