KATHY FITZGERALD

Putting the Pieces Together: Inspiring Lifelong Lessons in Kindergarten

“I love my students as if they were my own.”

United Way’s Be There initiative promotes excellent school attendance to children so that they will have greater success in school and more opportunities following graduation. The “Be There” Awards recognize outstanding adults in Allegheny County who encourage school attendance. Kathy was awarded a United Way Be There Award on April 1, 2017 for over 40 years of dedication and passion for local kids.

Kathy has spent more than half of her career teaching kindergarten. The joy and love for her work abound as she describes kindergarten as “a big jigsaw puzzle where emotional, social, academic and school habits begin to take shape to establish a foundation for everything else.”

She often welcomes students into the classroom for the very first time, and fills their learning environment with security, confidence and comfort. She invests in her students’ lives and works hard to form a special bond with each of them. “They need to know you care about them beyond academics,” she said.

Each student has a place in her heart. She often attends their extracurricular activities and special events outside of the classroom to show how much she cares about them.

When it’s time for her students to move onto first grade, each student leaves with a personalized letter from Kathy. She regularly gets letters back from former students of all ages, asking her for advice, sharing news and updating her on their lives. Kathy tells her students, “once they’re mine, they’re mine forever.”

Kathy’s most important priorities have been establishing encouragement, self-esteem and letting her students know how deeply she cares for them. One of her most special memories is having taught a young boy from a homeless shelter for 60 days as part of a larger district-wide initiative. She recalls the tremendous amount of potential she saw in him. “I hope he remembers his time with me, and that I set a foundation that lasts forever.”

See More Spotlights