Spotlight: Krista Trent (OH '18)February 7, 2019
Krista Trent (OH ’18), a fourth-grade math teacher at Thornville Elementary, holds happy memories from her first year of teaching, thanks to a great mentor and energetic students: “I fell in love with education because I fell in love with the kids.” She won Ohio’s 2018-19 Milken Educator Award on October 18, 2018.
Milken Family Foundation: What made you decide to teach?
Krista Trent: When I was headed to college, I struggled to choose a major because I had a wide variety of interests (music, agriculture, communications, math). I couldn't pick just one thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided to go into education so that I could influence students who would eventually impact every job field. I knew every day would be different, and that appealed to me. I also love meeting new people and I knew I would have 60 or more new people in my life every year.
MFF: Why elementary school?
Krista: I love teaching fourth-graders! They are at a perfect age: They still want to hug their teacher and they understand my humor. I did my student teaching in an eighth-grade classroom and thought that I was destined to work at the middle school level. But when I interviewed for jobs, I had three job offers across Ohio and they were all in fourth grade. I figured it was meant to be.
I love working in an elementary school because the students are full of curiosity. Many of them are learning how to do things for the first time, whether it is reading or long division. There is something magical about those “light bulb moments” where kids really start to understand a new concept.
MFF: How did your first year of teaching go?
Krista: I have fond memories of my first year because I had a fabulous group of students. I fell in love with education because I fell in love with the kids. Their energy was contagious, and we created a true family classroom environment.
I learned a lot from my fabulous mentor, Tina Johns. She was able to guide me through the paperwork side of teaching that was so overwhelming at the time (documentation, IEPs, 504 plans, collecting data, etc.). Tina became a great friend, someone to bounce ideas off of, and I was blessed to work with her in fourth grade for two years before she retired. She is still my mentor and I text her for help with tough situations. She helped me realize that we teachers need to stick together, share ideas, and support each other.
MFF: You’re on your school’s Positivity Project Leadership Team. What’s that about?
Krista: The Positivity Project empowers students to build positive relationships to understand, appreciate and exemplify the character strengths in us all. We spend time every day teaching students about positive psychology's 24 character strengths. Our motto is “Other People Matter.”
Since implementing the Positivity Project (this is our school's second year with the program), I have had some of the best conversations with my students about real-life issues. We talk about perseverance, open-mindedness, integrity and perspective, just to name a few of the 24 character strengths. I love that it’s a schoolwide program. We watch videos, have class discussions and do activities that make us think about the character strengths. This year, I started having my students write about how their classmates show the trait we have been studying. It has been so touching to see how my students see the good in others, and it’s uplifting for those who are being praised.
MFF: Who are your role models?
Krista: I was blessed to have so many wonderful teachers during my K-12 education at Liberty Union Thurston School District in Baltimore, Ohio. Karen Walters was my fourth-grade teacher, and she had a passion and zest for life and learning like none other. I still remember the amazing projects we did. We turned our classroom into an ocean complete with a fan-powered giant bubble. And I still have the starfish I made for our ocean class play.
Once I got into high school, my band director, Chris DeKay, and my FFA (Future Farmers of America) advisers, Tim Turner and Christi Bachman, really helped shape me into the leader I am today. They all believed in me and showed me how much was possible if I found my passion and gave it my all.
MFF: What went through your mind at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Krista: I was in complete shock! I knew we had some important visitors, including our state superintendent Paolo DeMaria, but none of our teachers knew in advance that someone was getting an award. As the assembly progressed I was thrilled that someone at Thornville Elementary would be honored with a well-deserved award and recognition for a job well done. I kept thinking about my amazing co-workers and how I would be so happy for any of them to receive this honor.
When my name was called, my mind went blank. I couldn't believe it. The day I received the Milken Award was parent-teacher conference night at school. Every parent who came in had already heard about it from their child or had seen it on social media. The parents were so happy for me and I got many congratulations that evening.
MFF: How did your students respond to your Milken Award?
Krista: They were ecstatic. I got a standing ovation from the school and the students started chanting “Mrs. Trent!” Seeing their reaction was so heartwarming. I felt like a rock star and knew they were all so proud of me. Some students in my homeroom were featured in the pictures from the newspaper, so they felt famous too!
From the moment I won the Award, there was a shift in my students’ mindset about their teachers. They now have more respect and gratitude for what we do. Because of this Award, I was able to share with my students that hard work pays off and others are watching what you do even when you don't think they are. I know those lessons will stick with them.
MFF: You embarked on a personal wellness journey and shared that with your colleagues, inspiring others to improve their health. What’s the story there?
Krista: In August of 2015, I was unhealthy and ready for a change. I started working out regularly and following a healthy eating plan. Two years later I had lost a total of 82 pounds. I became a Beachbody coach to help others with their health and fitness goals. I led a group of teachers who met after school a few times a week to work out. A few of us even ran some 5K races together.
It is so great to be able to encourage others to make healthy choices. Recently I have had some personal health challenges, and I had a baby, so I’m not at my healthiest right now. But with the new year, a group of teachers are ready to start working out again after school. It is nice to have an accountability group to keep each other on track toward our goals.
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Krista: We currently live about 30 minutes away from my school. I would love to buy some land and eventually build a house in my school district. I also plan to do something to treat the staff and students at Thornville, but I’m still deciding how to do that.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Krista: I associate success with growth. I remind my students often that I’m not perfect and I don’t expect them to be. But we can all be a little better today than we were yesterday. It’s easy as teachers to get caught up in test scores and data to define success for our teaching and our students. Those things are important, and I do take pride in the good test scores my students work hard for. But more importantly, if my kids leave my classroom a better person than when they walked in, that’s enough success for me.
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