From the moment Jay Kirkland first arrived on the scene as a student teacher at Bellaire Elementary more than nine years ago, it felt like family. It is why, three years into his career as an educator, he jumped at the chance to return to Bellaire when a third grade teaching position opened.
“My decision to become an elementary school teacher actually came from being a Sunday School teacher at the church I was attending at the time,” Kirkland explained. “During that time, I was working in retail management and I was looking to do something more. Working with students ranging in grades from third through fifth was such a rewarding experience. It was during this time that I knew I wanted to become an elementary school teacher.”
Fast forward to today and Kirkland is the school’s MVP. He is the robotics sponsor for the Bellaire Bombers, technology guru, handyman and a hands-down favorite among students and staff, obvious by the 44 nominations submitted for him to be named Bossier Schools’ first Gold Star winner of 2021. After reading those heartfelt sentiments, it was a slam dunk.
“Jay is one of the most kind people and has the biggest heart,” wrote colleague Lauren Crosslin. “He loves his school, staff and students deeply. One of the biggest things that stands out to me about Jay is his work ethic. He can be found after school most days helping take out the trash in classrooms to help the janitor’s job go a little smoother. He never complains and always has such a positive attitude at all times.”
“From helping with computer troubles to taking out the trash, Jay Kirkland does not shy away from helping with any task to keep Bellaire Elementary running smoothly,” added Lisa McGee. “He develops strong relationships with co-workers, students and parents. Everyone that meets him immediately feels important and welcomed. He does so much for Bellaire Elementary, often staying late into the night, working behind the scenes.”
Students put pencil to paper to gush about Kirkland, too.
“(He) lets us joke around because he is a fun teacher,” Jameson attested.
“Mr. Kirkland helped me with math and he is not my math teacher,” Harper cited.
“He gives us candy. HE IS THE BEST,” declared Addison.
And Layla wrote, “Mr. Kirkland helps me because he told me jokes when I am sad.”
“Jay Kirkland is just one of those teachers … the kind a student remembers for the rest of their lives,” said Bellaire Principal Alyshia Coulson. “Kids in all grade levels will come to me begging to have him when they are in third grade. When I observe in his room, I just think how wonderful it must be to come to school each day and have him for a teacher. This is the type of teacher every parent wishes their child could have every single year.”
Kirkland credits his parents for his work ethic and instilling the importance of helping out when there is a need. That has helped shape him as an educator, too.
“The most rewarding part about being a teacher for me is being able to see the growth my students achieve throughout the year and even beyond,” Kirkland reflected. When a student is struggling with a particular strategy, skill or concept, it is always amazing to see the moment in which they finally ‘get it.’”
Coulson summed it up best, saying “He is the definition of a service leader which is why he should be the next recipient of the Gold Star Award. No one is more deserving, more caring, more giving or more compassionate. He loves his job, his students and his co-workers. He makes coming to work a joy every day. He laughs continuously and smiles all the time. If I could clone him, I would because every school and every student needs a Jay Kirkland.”
Editor’s note: Know someone who works for Bossier Schools that is deserving of recognition for going above and beyond? Nominate them for the Gold Star award, proudly sponsored for the last nine years by Bossier Federal Credit Union. Just go to https://www.bossierschools.org/goldstarnews and tell us what sets them apart.