Claire Cooperrider is a first-grade teacher at Paul Habans Charter School. A graduate of the University of Dayton, Claire is in her third year of teaching. Claire graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Marketing and always knew she wanted to do something that would allow her to work with children.
“I love kids and was always drawn to a career that would allow me to help others, but I was uncertain about which career path I wanted to take,” she says. “When I was a senior in college, I started tutoring General Educational Development (GED) at the Montgomery County Jail. It was this experience that finally made the obvious apparent to me, I wanted to be a teacher.”
Claire has spent two of her three years of teaching at Habans and has always taught first grade. When talking with her, it is clear that she has a true passion for teaching that grade.
“I love getting kids excited about learning and finding their passions. Nothing makes me happier than hearing my kids talk about ancient Egypt or astronomy weeks or months after I have read them a story,” she says. “When my kids from the previous year remind me of something they learned or a silly memory we made together, I’m reminded of why I love working in education. That love for learning is what inspires me every day.”
Claire also values seeing her students grow and watching them become invested in and excited about their individual progress.
“Last year, one of my students, who was new to Habans, started the year not knowing all of her sounds. She ended the year ready for second grade, reading chapter books, and so hungry to learn. She is now performing above grade level, and every time I see her she has a book in her hand and is dying to tell me about it. That is what success as a teacher looks like to me.”
Shanda Gentry, PreK–2 Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Habans, has worked with Claire for the past two years and has enjoyed watching the impact she has on her students.
“I love watching Claire teach. She is always so energetic and engaging, especially when teaching literacy,” she said. “One of my favorite things to observe is when Claire is reading a story to her scholars. She goes above just reading the words on the pages; she will take the time to read it using different types of voices or props. I can see how dedicated she is to activating her scholar’s imaginations, no matter what it takes.”
Claire acknowledges the growth she has made while teaching at Habans. “I have grown leaps and bounds since my first day at Habans. The support and coaching I have received have made me a content expert and a more organized classroom manager. I have always felt encouraged, and the confidence the leadership team has given me has made a huge impact on me, both professionally and personally.”
Shanda has also seen the growth Claire has made in the classroom. “Claire has grown confident as a teacher and has worked really hard to perfect setting clear expectations for her students,” she said. “Claire’s impact on scholars is one of resilience and community. She focuses heavily on students understanding the importance of working hard and sharing/caring about others,” she added. “Because Claire is so invested in the well-being of her scholars, they have motivated her to constantly seek ways to improve her craft as a teacher.”
Claire’s students agree that she works hard to make sure they are successful once they leave her classroom. “Ms. Cooperrider is the best! She does everything. She’s smart and funny,” said first grader Katherine F.
When asked what her favorite part of her job is, Claire is quick to respond with how teaching has allowed her to be herself and the opportunity she has to teach her students by example.
“I was born with one hand. While it is not my intention to inspire others just because I’m a person with a physical disability, I do try to make my kids understand and respect differences,” she says. “It is so special to experience kids’ curiosity and honesty in a classroom setting. The double takes and feelings of shock and sometimes doubt that come the first days of school quickly pass and then I’m just Ms. Cooperrider. It is my hope that my kids see all that I can do, and in turn believe that they too can accomplish anything. I’m grateful that I can make connections between challenges, perseverance, and problem solving for my students.”