July 6, 2022 : By Logan Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Not many elementary-aged children can decide on a profession, but Katrina Grooms, who graduated from Liberty University’s School of Education in 2000 and is now a fourth-grade teacher at New London Academy in nearby Bedford County, had a firm career vision at an early age.
“I always loved working with children,” she said. “My fourth-grade teacher was amazing. She was just one of those teachers you remember. She had such an impact on my life. I remember thinking at that age that I wanted to be like her.”
Grooms’ desire to become a teacher only strengthened as she entered sixth grade. She quickly found a knack for babysitting, a side occupation she continued throughout middle and high school. She also volunteered extensively through her church’s Vacation Bible Schools and traveled with groups on mission trips.
“I enjoyed it so much, and I feel like God gave me that desire to work with children,” she said. “I just know that God has given me that gift.”
Bedford County Public Schools awarded Grooms its 2021-22 Teacher of the Year honors this past spring. The county encompasses just over 20 elementary schools in the Central Virginia area.
The accolade places Grooms in the running for the Regional Teacher of the Year award from the Virginia Department of Education, to be announced at the end of August.
Grooms won a similar recognition in 2005, when she earned Teacher of the Year for Huddleston Elementary School, another Bedford County school.
But at the end of the day, Grooms’ vision has always been to teach in public school and make a difference in her students’ lives.
“That’s my focus every day — to make a difference, no matter what,” she said. “It’s not about the trophies and the flowers. It’s about making an impact each day.”
Despite working in public schools since graduation, Grooms sees her career as a ministry, citing Matthew 5:16 which emphasizes Christians shining their light for others to see.
“Being in the public school has been something very important to me as a Christian,” she said. “I really feel like that’s something that the Lord has given me a passion for, being a light in the public schools. I think it’s desperately needed. … I feel like if we get more Liberty grads getting into public schools, that’s a great way to let our light shine for others to glorify God.”
Grooms said she enjoyed her undergraduate experience at Liberty, and she continues to work with Liberty students at her current job.
“Liberty does a fantastic job preparing educators,” she said. “Now that I’ve been a teacher for many years, I enjoy taking on practicum students and student teachers, and I do take a lot from Liberty. And to be honest, every experience has been so positive. I have not had one negative situation with any of my practicum students or student teachers from Liberty. They are always professional, hardworking, and well-prepared. I’m very pleased that Liberty has continued to prepare the educators the way they did when I was there.”
“I’m just happy to be where I am,” she added. “Each level (of the award process) has been amazing. … The Lord is so good, and obviously I hope to go on to the next level if that’s what God’s will is. But if I don’t, I’m completely content and happy with where this has taken me.”