It doesn't matter if she's teaching kindergarten or college, Donna Kerstetter refuses to accept failure from her students. "I can push a child. I will push and bend them, but never break them. If children are not prodded to do their very best, they will never do their very best."
With nearly 30 years of teaching under her belt, Kerstetter recently embarked on a new challenge. The awarding of federal "Race to the Top" money in Tennessee called for a reading and math interventionist at her school. "I was one of those children who was pulled out of the classroom. I had difficulty in reading and when I got into high school I vowed then that I would never want my child to go through what I did."
Kerstetter works with elementary school students in various grade levels at risk of falling behind at Tracy City Elementary School. She tailors her instruction to target specific skills that need some extra attention. "It is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. Because I can see the growth from one grade level to the next grade level," says Kerstetter. Her Principal, Russell Ladd, is amazed at what she accomplishes. "In a short period of time she's able to bring those children back to the grade level that they need to be."
Kerstetter says she became a teacher because she wanted to do something with her life that had meaning. She says teaching allows her the opportunity to change an awful lot of lives. "And that's the joy of teaching, you never know whose life your impacting until maybe years later."
Kerstetter's Golden Apple nomination came from former student Brooke Tenebaum. She had Mrs. Kerstetter several years ago, and says it wasn't until this year that she understood how Mrs. Kerstetter helped her to get through high school.