‘Feels like I just got here yesterday’

Kelly LaCroix leads a math lesson in the same classroom where she's always taught

For Kelly LaCroix, classroom 10 at Kettle Lake Elementary is a lot more than just four walls.

For two decades — the entirety of her teaching career — LaCroix has taught in the same district, in the same classroom: the very classroom her husband proposed to her in and where she announced she was pregnant with her first child.

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“There’s a lot of sentiment here,” said LaCroix, who teaches fourth grade. “Twenty years is a long time, though it feels like I just got here yesterday.”

Though LaCroix has found her passion with Caledonia schools now, being a teacher wasn’t always in the stars for her.

“I have an older sister who went into education before me, and I told myself there was no way I was going to go into education,” LaCroix said. “I wasn’t even considering it as an option.”

Kelly LaCroix has been teaching at Kettle Lake Elementary for 20 years

Instead, she decided to try a nursing major. As fate would have it, it was during a course for her nursing degree that LaCroix found her love for teaching.

“I had to take a teaching class and I absolutely fell in love with the class and knew that teaching was for me — there wasn’t a doubt in my mind,” she said.

Now, 20 years later, LaCroix said her passion has only grown for her district and her students.

“Caledonia is a special district,” she said. “We have great kids and excellent families.”

Creating a Classroom Culture

If LaCroix had one word to describe her classroom, she said, she would choose “fun.”

“We work really hard to make learning fun in here. It’s a group effort between me and the students, and I think we work really well together.”

One student’s favorite example of this is through the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum.

“We get to work in a lot of groups and learn in a unique way that makes things easier to understand,” Abigayle Putnam said. “She makes learning fun for us.”

Abigayle Putnam, left, and Taryn Genovich work together under LaCroix’s instruction

Taryn Genovich likes when they get to make holiday crafts.

“It’s like a reward,” Taryn said. “We get to do all of these crafts and activities after we get our work done, which is really fun.”

At the end of the day, the most important lesson LaCroix hopes to instill in her students is what it means to be a good person.

“That’s what I look forward to every year, getting to meet these students and mold them into the best that they can be,” she said.

A common topic of conversation in LaCroix’s classroom has to do with empathy: being aware of what others are going through.

“If someone is having a bad day, there’s probably a reason. It doesn’t really have to do with you most of the time,” Taryn explained.

The biggest compliment a teacher can receive is from the parents, LaCroix said.

“I’ve had parents that have told me that students come out of here a changed person, and that’s one of the best things to hear,” she said. “Just helping students to be the best version of themselves.”

LaCroix tries to make every classroom lesson collaborative, she says

The Next Chapter

Though LaCroix has 20 years under her teaching belt, “I’m not counting down,” she said. “Each day gets better and better in different ways.”

One of the factors that has kept her with Caledonia schools for so long is the sense of rural community.

“I love that I’ll be driving down the road and get stopped because there’s a tractor ahead of me,” she said. “We’re growing so fast, but we still have that small-town feel.”

Principal Sean McLaughlin said LaCroix’s passion for her job is known throughout the school.

“I have a building of rockstar teachers, Kelly being one of them,” he said. “She’s a fantastic person who is loved by her students and the whole Kettle Lake community.”

LaCroix said she enjoys watching the way her fellow teachers — as well as teachers across the nation — interact with their students, and learning from those around her.

“I truly believe that teachers are shaping the minds of future employees,” she said. “There is so much potential in every single child.”

Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit. Read Hannah's full bio or email Hannah.

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