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Topock educator says she’s always been drawing to teaching

January 28, 2019

TOPOCK — Rae Cheri Massey makes it clear: she’s very happy at Topock Elementary School.

“I started my teaching career here in Topock, and I will teach here until I retire,” she said. “Unless they fire me.”

If superintendent and Principal John Warren is to be believed, there will be no firing.

“Rae Massey epitomizes professionalism in the classroom,” he said. “She truly loves what she’s doing, as evidenced by her consistency. She gives the same effort in May that she does in August; the same on Monday as Friday.”

Massey said she always has been drawn to teaching; when she was in school, she would “hang out with the teachers,” and help them grade papers.

She came to Arizona after relocating from Montana when her husband’s health required a warmer climate.

After getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University, she joined the Topock faculty, teaching fourth grade, kindergarten and combo classes before settling into teaching second grade a couple of years ago.

Massey said it’s a good fit because second-graders “are still young enough that they love school.”

“My great passion is reading,” Massey said. “And second grade is the year they really start enjoying their reading.”

Among things she likes about Topock Elementary is the small class sizes; Massey has 15 students now.

She said having such a small class means she can better build relationships with her students, and that children benefit from more help with academics.

“I can spend more one-on-one time with students and make sure they really understand the concepts before moving on,” Massey said.

Warren said she’s up to the task, noting that Massey has earned national board certification — something only about 3 percent of U.S. teachers achieve.

At the 2011 Honoring Education Dinner & Awards, Massey was named educator of the year.

“Mrs. Massey has the ability to synthesize the best of the numerous education philosophies currently offered and molds instruction for students to meet each learner’s individual needs,” he said. “She’s the type of teacher that parents and students years from now will reflect back on and compliment her for instilling a love for learning in them.”

Massey said that she works early in the school year on getting to really know the students’ strengths and weaknesses.

She said her teaching strategy includes sharing information in multiple ways. She favors hands-on learning (with children performing actions as part of lessons), visual learning and small-group instruction.

There’s also a lot of computer-based learning, as every Topock Elementary student is assigned a Chromebook.

Her classroom walls are covered with “anchor charts” that help students remember key concepts. One is a place-value chart that shows how numbers look in expanded form.

Massey, who has been at Topock Elementary for 15 years, said that instruction has changed and that she has adapted her methods to go with it. The early grades, she said, are more focused on academics than before.

She said she used to be given a curriculum and just followed it.

“Now, I look at the standards and gather materials that can help the students learn them,” Massey said.

This school year, the students will learn how to tell time — on both digital and analog clocks — and complete a research assignment on brown bears.

They also will be asked to compare and contrast different versions of stories, including “Cinderella” and “The Three Little Pigs.”

Student Dizella Marshall said she enjoys projects that she does in Massey’s class.

“I really like learning,” she said.

Jayson Musgrove said he feels like he has gotten good at math because of Massey.

“She brings out the best in not only her students, but in her colleagues as well,” Warren said. “She’s truly a blessing to have on campus, inspiring us all to do our best, every second of every day.”

The students’ success is the payoff, Massey said.

“I love my job,” she said. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. The ‘light-bulb’ moment when they figure things out is worth all the hard work.”