Crystal Pilcher loves teaching.
In fact, with her degree, she could be earning a significantly higher salary, but she chooses to be a teacher.
“I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. As a kid, I used to make my uncles and aunts play school with me,” Pilcher said from Texas in a recent interview.
After high school, she went to college to become a teacher. To pay her way, she worked for a company as a receptionist. They offered to pay her way through college, but she needed to earn a business degree in accounting. She couldn’t pass up that chance, so she changed her plans. She continued in that field for a number of years as an account manager.
“Later, after I had my daughter, I remembered how much I loved teaching,” Pilcher said.
She completed an alternative license, went to a job fair, and started at an elementary school in Texas.
“It was the best thing I ever did,” she said. “I love being around kids. I love seeing their eyes sparkle when they learn something new and they get it.”
She has been an elementary teacher for more than 10 years. During that time, she’s taught social studies, reading, and writing for fourth and fifth grade students. This past year, she moved to a position at a STEM school. She enjoys using inquiry in teaching social studies. As she and her students dig into history, they learn together.
“We learn from history, so we don’t make the same mistakes. And we learn what worked well in history so we can improve it,” she explained.
During her career, she has been an advocate for keeping social studies in the elementary classroom. She’s experienced school years when other teachers wanted to drop social studies to allot more time to state-assessed subjects.
“Social studies is the glue that holds everything together, but it’s the first thing out the door when there is no time. It is always the first thing to get kicked out in favor of subjects that are tested — reading, science, and math. But in my opinion, you can teach all those things using social studies,” she said.
During those moments when social studies was in danger of being cut, she convinced her team of teachers to dedicate 25 minutes each day to the topic, and created all the social studies lessons for that year.
“I wish every school would do that. When you bring history alive, that can end up being the students’ favorite time of the whole day,” she said.
Pilcher regularly uses the Studies Weekly curriculum with her STEM students, even though she initially had to convince her current principal to purchase it. She’s also found it invaluable during the last few months.
“I like how it’s set up like a newspaper, and it’s not just a worksheet. It has pictures and videos that come with the lesson plans. And I enjoy how it gives you an overview, and then you can expand upon it,” she said. “And I’ve used it a lot during distance learning — it’s been a godsend.”
Pilcher said she is ready to go back to the classroom.
“I love going every day. I’m always ready to go back,” she said. “There’s so much negativity in the world with the news and social media that I love being a positive role model for my students. They are bombarded with negativity, and they need that positivity.”
She joked that every year around bonus time, she calls her best friend who is still in the accounting industry. “I ask her what her bonus was. Every year, it’s still not worth it for me to go back. I haven’t missed the money. I took a really big pay cut, so you know I’m really where I want to be.”
“I’m a firm believer if you don’t like going to work every day, what’s the point?” she added.