For Kathy Ferko, no two days are the same.
And that’s just the way the Wallace Grade School teacher likes it.
“Being with the kids all the time is so fun and every day is different,” Ferko said. “So, you can have the best day and the next day could be the worst day. I feel bad for people who go to work and every day is the exact same thing over and over again. I never have a repeat of a day ever, and that’s fun.”
It’s Ferko’s dedication to her students over the past 24 years that earned her an Excellence in Education award from the Regional Office of Education during its awards banquet earlier this month.
Ferko said she was there to support her fellow teachers as a part of the “Wallace family” and was surprised to receive the award herself.
She added she’s not one to seek out the spotlight and leaned over to a friend to share how uncomfortable she would be after the first winner was asked to give an impromptu speech.
Her friend was aware she would be one of the winners.
“I leaned over and said, ‘That poor lady has to go and speak in front of everybody and make something up instantly,’” Ferko said. “And she was cracking up because she was thinking, ‘Well, what would you say if you had to go up there?' ”
Ferko was appreciative of the award but said there were a number of Wallace teachers that are just as deserving, if not moreso.
“There are so many other people that deserve this award, especially where I work,” Ferko said. “I think everybody deserves that award from here.”
She originally had not planned to be a teacher, but her goals changed after a math teacher made the class fun through sharing his own enthusiasm for the material and she’s never looked back.
One of her proudest achievements was the introduction of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program that has captivated students.
She was enamored with the program after seeing it in place at other schools and excitedly met with the board and shared her vision, which was approved.
“Then I was like, what did I get myself into? I need to learn about lawn mower engines and golf tees and robots,” Ferko said. “But it was fun. It made me a better problem solver.”
The program is designed to give kids hands-on experiences and improve their own problem-solving skills. Ferko said it gives students an additional opportunity to show their talents that may not be as apparent through other forms of classwork.
She said she likes seeing students get excited about the assignments as well as seeing students who struggle with other forms of coursework find their talents when working with the STEM assignments.
“When kids like to be at school, that’s my goal as a teacher,” Ferko said.
She’s even continuing the cycle as students have returned to tell Ferko they’ve started a career as a math teacher in the same vein that Ferko was inspired by her classes.
Part of what makes every day feel fresh is also the support of her co-workers.
Ferko said the staff always support each other, including the retiring Donna McNamara.
“She just sets the bar high for everybody to follow, and everybody does,” Ferko said. “We have high expectations, but we have fun together.
“We always talk about the Wallace family and it truly is,” she added.