Teachers are Heroes: BES's Jim Kelsey changed jobs to make a bigger impact on children
Published Thursday, October 12, 2022
When he was in the 11th grade in upstate New York, Jim Kelsey particularly enjoyed study hall. During that time, he got to go and help out in a kindergarten class. He loved the experience so much that it inspired him to be a teacher – particularly at the kindergarten level.
That dream did not come true right away; he actually went the law enforcement route and served as a probation officer. He studied at SUNY Canton and got his Associate’s Degree in criminal justice and a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal investigations.
However, working as a probation officer changes a person, Kelsey said, describing it as an emotionally and mentally-heavy job.
“It jades you,” he said. “You get thick skin, and it’s hard for a family.”
Kelsey helped his sister move to Charleston several years ago and was so taken with the area that he brought his wife back for a visit. When South Carolina won her over, they decided to make the move from New York to Moncks Corner five years ago.
This move came with a lot of big changes, as Kelsey still held onto that dream of becoming a teacher. To make sure it was something he truly wanted, Kelsey subbed at Cane Bay Elementary through Kelly Services for a semester.
“My first day there, they put me in kindergarten,” he said. “I said, ‘This is it.’ This is what I wanted to do from Day One.”
Kelsey proceeded to the College of Charleston to pursue his Master’s Degree in early childhood education. During that time, he did his student teaching in first grade at Sangaree Elementary. Two years later, he landed a job at Berkeley Elementary.
“I think there’s a well-rounded, great set of teachers here,” he said, adding, “I feel like the administration has your back in any situation and they are very willing to work with you overall.”
Kelsey has particularly enjoyed teaching first-grade because children do a lot of growing in that amount of time.
“It’s just awesome to watch,” he said. “The growth and learning and confidence and being able to read and the excitement…that’s probably the coolest part, and knowing that I had a hand in that.”
Serving as a positive role model in children’s lives is something that truly hits home for Kelsey, who lost his father at a young age.
“I just feel like I can connect really well with the kids,” he said. “It’s what I think I was created for.”
Kelsey loves teaching but has plans to eventually move into an administrative role at some point – and definitely wants to stay in an elementary school.
“I just think that’s the natural progression,” he said. “Any job I’ve ever had I’ve always tried to work toward the next step.”
Outside of school, Kelsey is the head of security at his church, where he also leads a mission Bible study group; the group particularly works with the Callen-Lacey Center for Children to support foster children.
Kelsey’s family occupies most of the “Berkeley” schools in the district in some way. His wife, Jennifer, works in the guidance office at Berkeley Middle. His oldest son is a junior at Berkeley Middle College, and his youngest son is a ninth-grader at Berkeley High. The family also takes in foster children.
Kelsey and his family love to do anything outdoors, like camping and hiking. He incorporated this hobby into one of the reading corners of his classroom by making it resemble a little campsite, complete with a lantern, a curtain backdrop portraying a starry night sky over a campsite, a paper campfire, and stuffed woodland critters.
Kelsey incorporates a lot of “high energy” into the classroom to keep his students engaged. He will play with the children on the playground and use a lot of comedy in his classroom – and hopes his students will remember him for it.
“It’s a lot of fun for me and I know the kids get a kick out of it too,” he said. “I just want them to…think that I was one of their favorite teachers.”