As a young child, Cassiday Hopkins would jump at the opportunity to help care for children, accompanying her older sister on baby sitting jobs as frequently as possible. So it's only fitting that her career now would be in education, a pursuit she kickstarted at 17, when she volunteered as a teacher's assistant and saw her future.
"After my first week, I was sold," she says. "I was like: 'This is my calling. This is what I'm meant to be doing.'"
This is Hopkins' second year as a title I teacher at Sandy Grade School.
After working for five years at North Gresham Elementary School and five years at Arthur Academy, Hopkins noted she somewhat misses having her own classroom, but appreciates being in a smaller community where she can still be somewhat connected to the school's families as well as her students.
"It's important to me to build relationships with the kids," Hopkins says. "For them to trust me and know it's OK to make mistakes and build with me."
As a mother of three herself, she understands the need for parents to know how their children are doing in school, and also the importance of being able to prioritize responsibilities.
"It's easier to relate with other parents, being an educator and a parent," she explains. "All I've known is work with kids, so … I've learned how to use my time very wisely."
When she's not teaching or preparing lessons, she prefers to spend as much time with her children as she can, playing or watching basketball, creating art to relieve stress and volunteering with her church.
At home, Hopkins tries to keep some definite separation between school and home for her kids, while still nurturing their learning minds.
"I've been able to make education fun," she says. "I just try to keep extending (their education at home)."
In her position at Sandy Grade School, she provides math and reading intervention for students performing below grade level and those who just need a little extra assistance.
"That's one thing I really appreciate about working with (Principal Dr. Rachael George)," she says. "She's really big on not letting any kids get through the cracks."
Besides working with students, Hopkins also coaches teachers, observing classes and modeling problem-solving methods for them.
She also works with Principal Dr. Rachael George on professional development, and she actually plans to pursue her administrative license this spring, hoping to land a position as principal sometime in the future.
Being a specialist in education has its own set of challenges.
"The most challenging piece is I have so many students I'm trying to reach and I have such high expectations of myself," Hopkins explains. "When I know what they can do and they're not reaching my expectations, I wish the kids believed as much in themselves as I believe in them."
Students realizing and reaching their potential is what makes the long days all worth it for Hopkins.
She knows she's on the right track when students are truly confident in themselves as students and she sees them trying to help each other.
"I've always enjoyed working with children," she says. "To see the kids' growth from fall to spring (and) to see their pride," is the most rewarding part.