Kira Olson didn’t realize a trip to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens last summer would lead to her ideal job at Wiscasset Elementary School. She had just finished a year filling in for the kindergarten teacher at Great Salt Bay School. On a visit to CMBG, friends she was with told her there was a kindergarten job open at WES.
She delivered her application in person. Three hours later, an interview was scheduled. “And that’s how I ended up here,” she said in an interview in her classroom after school Jan. 9.
Olson grew up in Damariscotta, attending GSB and Lincoln Academy. She has always enjoyed working with kids, but her path to becoming a teacher was a bit different than some. After graduating from Lincoln Academy, she took classes at the University of Maine at Augusta and worked a few years for Damariscotta attorney Richard Salewski.
“I realized ... this is just not my calling. I love children, I’ve always loved children, I’ve always wanted to work with children.” She began taking classes again and started as an educational technician at GSB in the behavioral program. Then, after almost 10 years at GSB, she bought and ran a daycare, Bonita's Early Childhood Center in Damariscotta, for four years.
But the classroom was calling to her again. She returned to GSB for the one-year kindergarten job.
Her WES classroom is at the end of a long hallway. She said she hears students’ footsteps and then sees the students peek in the door. “And they’re so excited…they are so excited to see you and you’re like their favorite person when they come in this building.” That excitement lasts all day until they line up to leave, she said. And then, “They say to you, ‘Oh, school is over.’ That just makes me feel like I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing.”
Olson enjoys the variety of units she teaches her 15 kindergarteners. The class has gotten into apples and pumpkins and all things fall, and caterpillars turning into butterflies. Smiling, she said: “I had so many caterpillars brought in to me...and then we (did) a release of the butterflies.” She is looking forward to some of the spring units, include a marine one.
Olson said of working at the elementary level, “I feel like that’s where my strength is, with the little ones, and especially after running the daycare, and doing the preschool portion (after the year in kindergarten at GSB), I was willing to go wherever I was needed but this just was perfect. I think that’s my calling for now, kindergarten.”
She said the best piece of professional advice she’s ever gotten is “one day at a time and every day is different. And it is true, there are no two days that are the same in kindergarten.”