If you ever see some cute kids getting a workout on a playground or learning how to do some composting on South Seneca Central School District social media, there is a good chance that Elementary School teacher Heather Neville was the one who took them.
She is always taking pictures of her students having a blast — because she is too.
“I just love to capture those moments,” she said. “I love to show everyone how amazing this job is.”
Being a teacher is something that Neville has dreamed about for a long time. The ultimate goal was to come back and be a teacher right here in South Seneca, where she graduated in 2000. Since then, she went to SUNY Cortland to study early childhood/childhood education and graduated with honors in 2004. After that, she continued at SUNY Cortland for her master's degree in literacy and graduated in 2006.
After teaching at Seneca County Head Start and then Candor, Neville finally landed a position on her home turf in 2015.
“I always knew that when I grew up I would be a teacher as a child,” she said. “My dream was to become a teacher here at South Seneca. When the opportunity arose, I knew it was meant to be. I was back home where I belong.”
When asked why Neville’s vision was to come back and teach where she was taught, the answer was all about the community itself, noting that she loves the connection that she can make with students and their families.
“I love that I am able to be more involved now that I work right here in the community,” she explained, “where I live and teach at the same school district my own children attend. Youth sports have always been important to my family and I am able to volunteer my time in a much easier capacity now that I work at South Seneca. I am able to be involved in the Extended Day program, which has been a blessing for our school community. I love where I live and where I work.”
While Neville loves to get her kids outside for extended fitness and compost club, she is also cherishing being able to be back inside with them as well.
“Being back in-person has been wonderful,” she said. “One thing I have noticed is that the students and teachers are so excited to be back in-person to learn and to teach! The students come into school each day with smiles on their faces. We are getting through the math curriculum at a more manageable pace, which makes me feel some relief that my third graders will be moving on to fourth grade with the skills they need to be successful.”
Neville said it’s been a long two years, especially for younger students who are just beginning to grasp elements of education. She noted that being able to overcome remote learning has made in-person learning that much more fun and invigorating for not only the students, but for the teachers as well.
“Students just seemed to miss their friends and their teachers,” Neville said. “They missed giving us hugs in the morning and seeing our smiling faces that were now covered in masks. It was tough. When we were virtual, I tried to be available for my students and parents 24/7 offering support of any kind. Everyone was just trying to do the best they could. But you know what? We made it out stronger than ever. We have a new appreciation for in-person teaching and learning and boy does it feel good to get to hug my students again and see their bright smiles every single day.”