Welch, who has been teaching in Dyersburg City Schools for 17 years, is a product herself of Dyersburg City Schools graduating from Dyersburg High School in 1992. She grew up in her mother's classroom, who was a third-grade teacher. The relationships she watched her mother develop over so many years along with her love of children caused Welch to embrace education. She began her career at the Alternative School teaching GED classes to 18-year-olds. The next year to her great joy she was teaching kindergarten, where she has been ever since.
"I have always wanted to say that I am a kindergarten teacher," said Welch. "I want kids to see themselves as learners and as a part of their school."
Welch is currently undertaking a special assignment with DPS as a looping teacher. A looping teacher begins with one class in kindergarten and then moves along with them as they move on to the first and second grades. Welch is in her second year looping with her class and has called it an amazingly positive experience.
"The advantage is the relationships I have made with my families," said Welch. "As far as the kids are concerned we were able to pick up right where we left off the previous school year."
The relationships formed are the single biggest advantage to looping according to Welch. She stays in constant contact with parents whether by email or text or in person. With two kids of her own, Welch feels that she can be a positive influence for some of the younger mothers and says that two of them have returned to school, and she hopes that her influence helped with that decision.
After she completes the second grade next year, Welch would return to kindergarten and pick up another class to begin looping again if she so decides. She's not sure such a positive experience could be duplicated but hasn't made a decision whether to continue with the looping program or not. Welch says the biggest challenge of looping was to make sure that her class understood that this was not kindergarten anymore, that the bar for this year was higher.
"I want my kids to know that I have high expectations," said Welch. "It has to be done and it has to be done right."
As for being chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers, Welch said that she was overwhelmed by the honor.
"It is a big honor," said Welch. "This is a hardworking bunch to be picked out of such an outstanding group is an honor."
Welch says that she learned so much from the teachers that had been there for some time when she came in, and she hopes that she is paying it forward now and serving as role model for the new incoming teachers.
"I was very young when I started and wasn't married and didn't have any children of my own," recalled Welch. "I looked to the teachers who had been here for everything so I could learn the tricks of the trade.
"It is an honor to work for the Dyersburg City Schools," continued Welch. "It has changed over the years and the type of kids that we serve have changed, but it is still the best school system and we all have high expectations."
Welch says it's amazing to work in the school system you grew up in because of the recurring relationships that just continue to grow over time. Currently she has children in her classroom, whose parents she went to school with. She sees the resemblance, the mannerisms reflected in the kids and she says it makes her smile and laugh. It also gives Welch an immediate connection with the parent.
After 17 years, Welch says that now when she goes to DHS she is able to see her students on the ACT 30-plus club wall and it is such a rewarding feeling for her to see her former students succeed and to know she had a small part in that.
"I don't know what else could have held my interest other than teaching," said Welch. "It is so rewarding to see what they can do."