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Returning to school not scary for former "nerd"

The Anson Record, May 9, 2010
Karen Gerald leads her class in a song as, from left, Aallyssa Liles, Wykeria Little and Xylia Marshall join in.
Karen Gerald leads her class in a song as, from left, Aallyssa Liles, 
Wykeria Little and Xylia Marshall join in.
Going back to school in her 40s was not scary for Karen Gerald.

She looked forward to it.
 "When I was in school as a child, everyone called me a nerd because I always loved school," she said. 'It wasn't scary. I really enjoyed it. I guess that's why I always liked to teach."

Gerald, who will turn 45 at the end of the month, will receive an Early Childhood Education degree during South Piedmont Community College's (SPCC) commencement exercises Monday at the Union County Agricultural Services Center.

She returned to school after running a home day care center for 17 years on N.C. 109 just south of Wadesboro. "I got to thinking I needed something with some benefits," she said.
 She learned through Smart Start about the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood Project.

T.E.A.C.H. scholarships require recipients to work two more years in child care after they get their degree. A T.E.A.C.H. scholarship paid Gerald's way at SPCC.

She has been working at the Anson County Head Start center in Wadesboro, and will continue to do so now that she has graduated. As an assistant teacher, she is responsible for helping the teacher, as well as driving and monitoring the bus.

She was also offered a job with a private day care in Monroe through SPCC's co-op program, but turned it down because of the benefits the Head Start job provides.

Still the learner, Gerald is enjoying putting into practice things that she has learned in the classroom, such as teaching through play.
 "I'm able to use that now," she said. "A lot of people don't realize how much kids learn through play."

Her skills were on display last week as she led her class through two songs, one about frogs and another about ducks. Both incorporated math into the lyrics.

Gerald is proud of making the President's List, meaning she had a 4.0 average, in the spring of 2009. "I've met a lot of good teachers," she said, mentioning in particular Sharon Little. "She has really been a big help to me."

Gerald hopes to continue her education and is trying to get into the University of North Carolina at Pembroke's birth-to-kindergarten program. She hopes to get another T.E.A.C.H. scholarship to pay for that.

"I'm hoping most of it is going to be online," she said. "I'm sure there are some things I'll have to go there for, but I'm hoping the majority is going to be online."

SPCC's graduation for curriculum students and the Anson County Early College will be Monday evening at the Union County Agricultural Services Center. There are 272 curriculum graduates, plus 34 from the Early College. The Adult High School/GED graduation will be held earlier in the afternoon at the same location. There were 284 GED graduates and 29 Adult High School graduates.