First-time Teacher "Goes Bananas" Over Learning

It's a jungle in one Bell Elementary School classroom.

In less than 24 hours, it will be filled with more than a dozen energetic 3rd graders, going to school in Tyler. And Kristen McGee will begin her career, doing what's she's always wanted to do.

"I just love children," she said. "And this is where I want to be. And this makes me truly happy. When I can come to work and be with kids, I can smile all day."

A first-time teacher with all the hopes and expectations one could have for her new students, Kristen said, "Lots of them are curious, you know, who's my teacher? What's she going to be like? So, just let them know about me, and I'll learn about them, and I just hope they're as excited as I am 'cause I'm very excited."

Kristen is all about "active learning." That's why she has set up work stations around her room, all with a safari theme.

"In the little reading area, I've got a big banana for them to sit on, since we're bananas about reading."

But right now, there's no monkeying around in her classroom. Kristen knows she'll face challenges teaching a diverse group of kids, but she also has a clear goal in mind.

"Maybe they're coming into class thinking, oh, I'm not, I'm not a good writer, I'm not a good this. I want them to leave the class thinking, I'm good at everything. And I can do anything, as long as I put my mind to it."

Using creativity and a lot of fun, Kristen hopes this school year will be as memorable for her students as it will be for her.

There are 33 first-time teachers, like Kristen, who will be starting tomorrow at TISD. New teachers typically spend the most money the first year, buying decorations and supplies.

Julie Tam, reporting.