CONCORD MIDDLE SCHOOL — When do teachers sleep?
Every single one has eight hours of school when they are actually teaching but that doesn’t count getting to the building likely an hour before work, staying after to take care of other things, grading papers at home, in some cases coaching or tutoring and taking time to keep parents informed about their child’s progress.
That’s not even counting whatever time they spend with their own families, cleaning their own houses, maybe doing yard work, cooking food or — God forbid — having free time for themselves.
After talking to Concord Middle School seventh grade teacher Katherine Clardy, one has to ask if she ever sleeps.
Apart from teaching her glass during the day, she serves as grade-level chair and is the co-coach of the school’s LEGO team. That doesn’t even take into account that she is the head of both boys and girls soccer teams and being — as principal Liz Snyder calls her — the school’s “anything-you-need person.”
And that is just in school. She also spends her weekends working at the YMCA and the LEGO Store at Concord Mills.
Seriously, when does she sleep?
“There’s a lot to do and a lot of fun to be had because all of these things that I do are fun, so every day being able to come to work and have fun, go out to the field and have fun, and then on the weekends to also have fun is pretty awesome,” Clardy said.
One of five finalists in Cabarrus County Schools for Teacher of the Year, Clardy has been at Concord Middle School for the last six and a half years. She has spent 21 as a teacher after graduating from Siena College in Albany, New York with a bachelor’s in education. She also earned her masters in middle grades education from Gardner-Webb University.
Snyder called Clardy’s nomination for Teacher of the Year a no-brainer.
“She’s top notch,” the Concord Middle School principal said.
She continued: “When you talk about Teacher of the Year, it’s not just a random vote on a Wednesday afternoon that you’re selecting, you really look at what this person contributes to the lives of children. That’s the part that should matter and what she does when you walk into her classroom, there’s not one discipline referral that I’ve ever seen from Clardy and if there (was one) it’s few and far between because she has exhausted everything to handle it herself.
“When kids bounce, sometimes they’re bounced out of their class because they just couldn’t handle that class (and) they are bounced to Clardy’s class. So not only is she teaching her kids, she’s sometimes just getting a random student at the door and integrates them right on in and they keep going and she just doesn’t skip a beat.
“And so when you build those relationships with the kids the way she does, she provides them with structure and discipline and routine and love and care and everything else that surrounds those adjectives to make this the best eight hours of those kids’ school day. And for some, beyond eight hours when you go outside to practice, but you just can’t match that, so I’m just tickled for her.
“Tickled for her to go through this process and finish it out and see how she comes (out). Whether she’s the top Cabarrus County Teacher of the Year or not, she’s top to us. So either way she’s a winner to us no matter what.”
Nick Lord is an assistant principal at Concord Middle.
“I’ve known Kate since I’ve been here and this is my sixth year, she came just before I did, and really got to second everything that Dr. Snyder said. She loves kids and you know that from the moment you meet her,” he said. “I know Kate a little from outside the school, the LEGO store, she loves LEGO and I bring my son into the LEGO store and she just eats it all up.
“And just truly that true kindness, willing to help no matter what, it doesn’t matter the situation, she’s one of the first ones to always raise her hand and say, ‘I’ll help’ and so those things kind of make her great. Those are the unspoken things that you don’t always know about what teachers do.”
Clardy has spent her entire time as an educator in the Charlotte area starting right out of college at Ranson Middle School.
She was offered the job and didn’t even take a visit to the school. She moved right down and hit the ground running to get started as a social studies teacher.
She didn’t always know she wanted to teach, but an experience at the YMCA in college put her on the path to what has turned out to be her calling.
“I knew eventually I wanted to become a teacher, but I didn’t realize it, I guess until my sophomore year, when I was teaching swimming lessons at the (YMCA),” Clardy said. “I had teenagers, five brothers that were all teenagers in one lesson, and the mom came up to me and she said, ‘Honey, what is your major?’ just like that when I finished the eight weeks with them, and I said, ‘Well I’m in international business,’ and she said, ‘Honey, you’re in the wrong major.’
“So, apparently because her boys were particularly difficult and we had a great time. They did really well, they developed their skills and it kind of hit me like a brick between the eyes because I realized that I should do education.”
After her time at Ranson, Clardy took a job at the Charlotte Montessori school and worked there until it shut down just about seven years ago now.
It wasn’t an easy thing to learn, but that school’s loss was Concord Middle’s gain.
She would take a job teaching and coaching in Concord and she has been making her impact felt ever since.
She helped lead the soccer team to its first title in a very long time, she has implemented tutoring for her student-athletes throughout the year and — as Snyder said before — she simply has her finger on the pulse of everything going on at the school.
“Kate’s just all-knowing,” Snyder said. “I fed some kids, like 20 kids a couple of weeks ago for doing some kind acts, because we really want to hone in on kindness, and had some left over and I gave it to a kid that doesn’t have a lot going on and I didn’t know if he’d have his meal for the evening, so there’s some issues there. And within two minutes I got a text from Clardy that says, ‘Thanks for feeding so and so,’ and I thought, ‘Where are you? How do you know that I just gave a kid a pizza?’
“So there’s that side and there’s the side of taking them to Tacos for Life and showing them how to give back. So you receive, but you give, and so it’s important in what we see is we see it all come together, so yeah, she’ll go the extra mile for the kids, but she’s also going to teach them how to give back to others in need with the fundraisers and the projects that she does outside the school which is pretty cool to see.”
Working at Concord Middle has made it easy for Clardy to go the extra mile for the students and also for the teachers.
“This place is a welcoming place,” she said. “The teachers here make the effort to welcome new people and help them to feel like they’re included as part of the community. And the sense of community — when I first came the sense of community was very strong and that hasn’t wavered at all, that continues to be the case — the sense of community here and the sense of camaraderie between teachers and the fact that we’re all in this for our students is probably the greatest asset for sure of this staff.
“Every one of these people who are here are here to give 300 percent to the kids and help the kids grow as a result of that.”
Cabarrus County Schools Teacher of the Year will be named in April and Snyder knows who she thinks she should win.
“Every principal has one of these people on their staff. It’s just a go-to person that has their (finger on) the pulse of the school,” Snyder said. “I walked in here last Feb. 25 and so you look around and you observe for a while, but I’m telling you it took less than a day to figure out that Clardy was somebody that you could go to and get an honest, unbiased, true-to-the-heart answer to any question that would be in the best interest of children, and that’s who is first and foremost in this building and so she wears that hat very well to advocate for them.
“And to give us feedback whether it be a discipline issue, or a curriculum issue or an extracurricular issue, to give us feedback on what’s going to be beneficial for that child and so you just value her from a principal standpoint.”