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School is where the heart is for Fort Mojave Elementary teacher

September 3, 2018

FORT MOHAVE — If home is where the heart is, Judy Chesla’s heart must be at Fort Mojave Elementary School.

She has spent her entire 14-year teaching career there, save for a year away.

What brought Chesla back to FMES?

“This school is more like a family,” she said. “I just really missed everybody.”

Chesla has taught first grade all but one of her years at Fort Mojave.

She said that when she entered higher education, she hadn’t decided on a career path, but knew that she wanted to help people.

Chesla initially took a couple of classes geared toward future paralegals, but decided against pursuing that line of work.

She said one thing she likes about being a teacher is seeing her students’ growth.

“One day they can’t read,” she said. “A month later, they’re reading sentences to you.”

She said she enjoys seeing students’ enthusiasm about their success.

“I like to see how excited they get when they see how much they can do,” she said.

Other pluses, Chesla said, include her co-workers, in particular the other first-grade teachers.

“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “We can be ourselves. We can be silly.”

Chesla said her approach to teaching is flexible, with adjustments for the day, the subject matter and the students she’s trying to reach.

One constant, she said, is that she wants to ensure that students understand the material and that it interests them. She said that introducing real-life situations into the lessons helps with that goal.

Every six weeks, Chesla said, her class does a STEM project. Last school year, they included making their own characters and using plastic cups of different colors to create the hat worn by The Cat in the Hat.

So far this year, the first-graders’ class work has included a timeline for each child, with photos and important dates. At the end of the quarter, Chesla said, each student will create a “future shoebox” — a diorama representing his or her career choice.

Someone who wants to be a doctor, for example, would design her shoebox to look like a medical office.

Chesla said she feels she’s doing a good job when students’ skills are improving and “when they’re enjoying coming to school and they’re enjoying themselves.”

FMES administrative principal Pat Turco said Chesla is a valuable asset to the school.

“She’s a great leader and team player,” he said. She’s a great mentor for new teachers and student teachers.”

Turco said Chesla is the right person to head up the school’s “sunshine committee,” charged with keeping up morale on campus.

“She’s very patient,” he said. “She does a great job building up our students’ character. She’s always looking for a way to boost positivity on campus, and make people happy to be here.”