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The teaching career of this year’s Lincoln County School’s Teacher of the Year has been quite serendipitous. Except of course for the decision to become a teacher. Kassie Arndt, a third-grade teacher at St. James Elementary School, received a surprise visit from LCS administrative staff to give her the good news.

“I was in my kitchen,” she said. “We were actually waiting for a guy to come and look at a tree on our property and when I heard the knock, I thought it was him. I opened the door and there’s Dr. Morrow, Dr. Allen, my principal and everyone’s standing there with balloons.”

That same day, the parents of her students had arranged a parade through Arndt’s neighborhood. They didn’t know at that time that she had been named teacher of the year. The parade had even more meaning for this elementary teacher.

“We had been doing teacher parades through different neighborhoods,” she said. “When they did it for me, I balled my eyes out. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

Last school year, Arndt taught second grade and her entire class looped with her. She’s been a teacher for 11 years, eight of them at LCS. Even though she lived in Lincoln County, she started her teaching career in Iredell County where she had done her student teaching. 

“I was commuting to UNCG in Winston-Salem and Iredell County was the closest they could get,” she said. “I had my third child and my oldest was getting ready to go into kindergarten and a friend of mine who worked at Rock Springs told me about a position that was coming open.”

Arndt didn’t really want to leave the school she was teaching at then, Scotts Elementary in Statesville, but her friend convinced her to apply. She got the job and taught at Rock Springs for three years before she was rifted due to budget cuts.

“I think there were six or seven of us that lost our jobs,” she said. “I interviewed at St. James. I think it’s a God-thing honestly. One of the questions that I was asked when I was interviewing here was why did I want to work at St. James? Of course, I was being rifted and I looked at our principal (Shanti Clancy) and said, ‘I don’t want to work at St. James. I love Rock Springs.’ She realized what she had asked and said, ‘okay’ and changed the subject.”

Arndt left the interview and called her husband and told him she didn’t get the job because she told the principal she didn’t want to work there. A couple of days later, she was offered the job.

“I felt like the Lord placed me here to be inspired by Mrs. Clancy to go back to school to get my admin degree,” she said. “She’s such a phenomenal leader. We have such phenomenal leaders at the school. Not so say that Rock Springs didn’t.”

As a child, Arndt loved school and had good experiences, her brother not so much. 

“I wished I could have made his experiences like mine, so I decided to go to school to build relationships with kids who don’t necessarily meet the good student mold,” she said. 

Now, as a teacher, Arndt tries to get to know her students outside of school. 

“School is important, of course, that’s why I’m a teacher, but it’s not the most important thing,” she said. “What’s most important is that they know that when they come to my classroom that I’m here for them. I’m going to do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable, happy, loved and accepted. I understand, not everyone’s a scholar, not everyone likes school. I want them to know that while they are in school, they can have great experiences. Hopefully they can look back and maybe if they don’t remember that I taught them multiplication, they’ll at least remember that I loved and cared them.”

If Arndt could change anything about education, now it would be that COVID would be gone and they wouldn’t have to do distance education. In a normal world, however, she wishes that the public knew how underfunded Lincoln County is by our local government.

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