A FIRST-YEAR TEACHER FOR FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS
Days before school started at Warren Elementary School last fall, as teachers were putting finishing touches on their classrooms and students were eagerly awaiting the first day of classes with their new teacher, Rachel Lines got a call.
Lines, who had been substitute teaching since 2017, was asked to teach kindergarten as a long-term substitute after the original teacher dropped out.
Her first day was the same as her students’, walking into the classroom just an hour before the kindergarteners did.
Lines is a first-year teacher with 20 first-year students.
“I’m stretching and learning, right with them,” she said of her students.
Lines has planned lessons that she thinks will be a hit, only to find the lesson bombs in class.
“Every single night is me just learning from what they’ve taught me, what I need to do differently,” Lines said. “Even when I’m on my last breath, I’m still (going to be) learning.”
Her students have seemed surprised by that idea, she said. Some assume that learning is over after graduation from high school or college.
Lines’ classroom is all about building community, encouraging a lifelong love for learning, and celebrating every accomplishment with “a lot of woo-hoos.”
She knows firsthand how important that encouragement can be.
“I was very challenged as a kid and I had some teachers that made me feel horrible,” said Lines, who grew up with learning disabilities.
She added, “Some kids feel challenged and they don’t get things as fast. To support those kids, it’s always been a dream of mine.”
Her group of kindergarteners is “resilient,” Lines said.
“They are really amazing warm hearted beings that really just want to learn and celebrate,” said Lines.
She works hard to relate to the students she sees every day.
“I’ve got some hard-knock kids that are going through some really rough times. And if they can do it, I can do it. I can do it with them. They give me the strength that, just, we got this. We can do this together,” Lines said.
Lines has been a long-term substitute in the past, so she’s had experience with lesson planning. But walking into a mostly bare classroom on the first day, Lines had her work cut out to prepare the hands-on activities, colorful posters and cutouts of numbers and letters that now line the classroom.
Lines had a long career in a far different field before making the switch to teaching. For almost two decades, Lines worked in welding, first co-owning an architectural and structural iron work business and then moving into aeronautical welding.
Eventually, the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated profession led Lines to look for a different path.
“I was just really tired of having to fight that, to prove myself every day,” Lines said. “Even though I was good at what I did, it was just a battle.”
Lines thinks she’s better suited — and if nothing else, better served — as an educator.
“I find it much more rewarding, to be honest,” Lines said of teaching, “and not as much of a fight every day.”
Lines started substitute teaching in 2017 and soon went back to school in the evenings, completing her master’s degree in education in 2020.
Lines said she’s had good mentors within the Scappoose School District, including as a student teacher at Grant Watts Elementary School.
“I could not be here and be successful with the students in my classroom if I didn’t have a principal that cared, if I didn’t have another kindergarten teacher that cared, if I didn’t have a mentor kindergarten teacher from Grant Watts that cared,” she said.