If not for falling in love with her neighbor boy, John, and knowing that his beloved farm fields wouldn’t easily relocate to New York City, Nevada Schools may have never known the blessing of one of the district’s longtime elementary teachers. And the nifty name she has called her classes through the years, “Kix Kids,” may have never been heard here.
Joy Kix, who will retire at the end of this year after 30 years in education, gave up her dreams of becoming a Broadway star to become a Midwestern wife and mother, and a teacher of young children.
“I was absolutely sure as a teenager that I was on my way to New York City,” said Kix, who started singing at an early age and remembers standing on a step stool at age 3 and using an unplugged coffee percolator cord as her microphone. But, she married her Iowa farm neighbor John, who also loves to perform, and pursued her other love, teaching. “So instead,” she said, “we sing and perform in the Kix Kids’ classroom.”
While she and John still live in the area where they were raised, just south of Hubbard, Kix has commuted to Nevada’s Central Elementary since 1989 when she was hired as a kindergarten teacher. In 1994, she moved to a 1-2 multi-age classroom, and later to a 3-4 multi-age classroom. Before coming to Nevada, Kix also taught kindergarten at Gilbert and at Hubbard and Hubbard-Radcliffe.
Growing up in a family of girls — Kix had five sisters and no brothers — she said when the work was done, she and her sisters would play for hours. Her favorite thing to play was school. “I always seemed to be the teacher. Since I was one of the older sisters, I think teaching just became second nature to me,” she said. “My mom had been a teacher in the early years of my parents’ marriage, and I always admired my mother. I wanted to be like Mom, a teacher.”
Other teachers also influenced her career choice. Her fourth-grade teacher, Ruth Ann Boorn, was one of the first people to influence her, she recalls. “We had a large classroom, and I remember one day she said we were going to push our desks and chairs out of the way and she would teach us several lessons about square dancing. I was in Heaven!”
Kix said she also learned the art of teaching from her high school science teacher, Lor Dickes and her high school history teacher, Ron Sunderman. Her high school music teacher, Phil Pfaltzgraff, meant the world to her and she respected him immensely for bringing musicals back to their school. “Finally, when I was at Iowa State, I would never be late to my early childhood education classes taught by Corly Brooke. She is an amazing teacher.”
Being a teacher comes with its share of challenges, and for Kix, the biggest challenge for teachers is time management. “There is much to do as an educator, and using time in the best way takes careful planning.”
There are also many changes that have happened during her educational career. “Change,” Kix said, “is a constant you can always count on.” And she believes many of the changes that have happened in her time at Nevada have been positive ones. She lists Performance Based Education, CRISS, Cognitively Guided Instruction and Concept Based Education as a few examples of the positive changes. She also has enjoyed her time teaching in a multi-age classroom. “I can say that having students for two years has been a great situation for me as a teacher. It has matched my own learning style quite well.”
The thing she has enjoyed most about being a teacher and will miss most as she leaves her career is relationship-building with students, families and her peers.
“I have come to know so many students and their families while in Nevada,” she said. A recent talk by educator Rita Pierson included the importance of human connection and that kids show up at school for a reason — the connections, the relationships. “Learning should bring joy and my classroom needs to be a place where children feel powerful in their learning and make connections with each other and with me. My hope is that the children I’ve taught can reflect about their time in my classroom and feel that it was time well spent. I know it was for me.”
As for her colleagues. “I appreciate their professionalism and their dedication to students. I am grateful to them and to the Nevada School District for a rewarding career. I am glad that Superintendent Ken Shaw and Elementary Principal Robert McIntire saw something in me when I came to this school 25 years ago.”
Kix said she will miss learning with her students, feeling she has learned just as much as they have during site visits and from speakers they have had through the years. She will also miss the creativity involved in teaching, “thinking about new opportunities within a student’s reach that will make a difference in his or her life.”
As she looks ahead to retirement, there is also alot to be excited about. Kix said she plans to enjoy time in her home and on the farm, planting flowers, doing yard work, watching the tractors and combines fire up in the fall, going on morning runs with her dog and more.
“I will continue to do my share of bread-baking; there are many recipes I still want to try,” she said. She also plans to make time for reading, singing, acting, going on drives in her car and attending the theater.
Most important, she plans to travel to see her children and grandchildren who are scattered around the country in Connecticut, Arizona and Nebraska. “Now my grandchildren will hear my songs and stories and my relationship-building will be with them.”
With no uncertainty at all about retirement, Kix said, “I am excited to just be me!”