LAGRANGE, GEORGIA: Mary Beth Pelt, age 39, defines hope as the following – “For me, hope is anticipation mixed with joy and excitement, and, looking ahead, readying for something. It’s knowing something better is coming.”
The wife of Garrett, and mother of Saralynn, age 13, and Carter, soon-to-be age 10, strives to exhibit this characteristic and share it with her students on a daily basis, and in her work with her church’s children and youth departments.
In her free time, Mary Beth told The Murphy Gazette, “I love to lead worship, write handwritten notes to people in my life, and Bible journal. In my free time, I can be found writing while in the stands at Carter’s baseball games or during intermission of Saralynn’s dance performances.”
A 1999 graduate of LaGrange High School, Mary Beth is an Exceptional Education Paraprofessional with the Troup County School System. “I work at Callaway Elementary School – the best school in the universe.”
When asked if her career chose her or she chose her career, Mary Beth paused. “Hmm-great question. A little bit of both, I think.”
She stated, “As the mom of two small children, I thought a job with the school system would afford me some more time with my kids, so I applied. Almost a year went by before I got a phone call.”
“I interviewed, but wasn’t aware of what the job actually was. I didn’t get that job, after opting out once I realized what it required, which was fine, because it really just wasn’t my thing. I did, however, get a call the next day, asking if I was interested in a kindergarten paraprofessional role.”
Mary Beth said, “Apparently, that’s what the interviewing administrators had in mind for me all along. Here I am, in my 9th school year, having spent four years in kindergarten, two years as a Behavior Para, and two years and counting as an Ex-Ed Para.”
She explained, “Every single day is different. Sure, I spend the same hours in the same classrooms, but nothing is the same.”
“Fifth and fourth grade English/Language Arts, fifth grade Math and third grade, English Language Arts and Math round out my day, but I spend lots of time tying shoes, wiping tears, playing games, dressing up, competing in the Ice Bucket Challenge, walking the red carpet interviewing our celebrities and whatever is needed … all in a day’s work, and I love every second of it,” Mary Beth laughed.
“Children are children. They will behave as such. Behavior is often the language used to communicate when actual language isn’t known or understood,” she said. “Love kids as they are. Nurture them. Teach them. Spend time with them.”
Mary Beth stated, “My students teach me life lessons every day. I work with students for whom school doesn’t come easily. They struggle.”
She continued, “They dig deep and go all in, doing things that come naturally to many of their classmates, but I watch them fight for every point they earn. I watch them advocate for themselves when they ask their teachers to ‘do it again, please,’ or ‘slow down, I missed it,’ or just plain, ‘I don’t understand.’”
Mary Beth explained, “So what do we do? We do it again. We slow down. We work it over and over and over again until understanding comes. Is it hard? Yes. It’s hard watching them struggle. It’s hard to not just pick up the pencil and do it for them when they’ve solved the same problem six times with six different answers.”
She said, “But, then on the seventh time, the light bulb goes off and the understanding happens, I know I’ve witnessed greatness. It’s all about survival. And it’s so good to see it in action.”
In offering advice for others, Mary Beth said, “Look inside yourself. All you need is there, you just have to see it for what it is- strength that only you possess, because you’re the only one who carries it.”