R-C neighbor: Jeanice Gearty always wanted to be a teacher
Janice Gearty can’t remember a day that she didn’t want to be a teacher.
“I have a picture of me in kindergarten, and on the back it says, ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher,'” said Gearty, a Gardnerville Estates resident since 1980. “That feeling has never changed.
However, Gearty didn’t enter the teaching profession until two years ago.
“I grew up in Sacramento, and when I moved to this area, I went to work for Harrah’s,” said Gearty. “I worked in change pay off as a slot mechanic and then as a dealer. It was when I was dealing that a gentleman at my table provided the incentive to go into teaching.”
Gearty had some college education under her belt by this point in her life, but she needed an impetus to continue.
“He provided a plan, to volunteer at the school where I wanted to teach, to then take any job I could with the school, to progress to substitute teaching and finally to teach. Really teach,” said Gearty.
She took his advice. First she volunteered time at Scarselli Elementary School; she then applied for a playground aide position. Once she had her substitute teaching certificate, she knew she was on the right track, thanks to the advice of a stranger.
“That man was one of my little angels,” said Gearty. “A person who pops into your life just long enough to make an impact.”
It took six years for Gearty to complete her education. She did her student teaching at Scarselli, spending two months in the 1st grade and two months in the 5th grade. She thought that her niche was teaching the older grades, but her first job with the Douglas County School District was as a kindergarten teacher, teaching 30 students every morning at Gardnerville Elementary School and up to 28 students in the afternoon at Scarselli.
Gearty laughed. “The other teachers threatened to buy me one of those molded plastic bibs to catch all my spills because I had to eat lunch in my car. It was hectic, but it was a wonderful learning experience for me because I learned two different administrative styles and the structure of two different schools.”
Gearty’s hard work and dedication as a teacher paid off quickly. After just one year of teaching, she was nominated for a contest sponsored by a Reno newspaper. She was named Nevada’s Best Educator in 1998 for kindergarten.
“I was awestruck. It was very humbling to be associated with all those wonderful educators with years and years of experience,” said Gearty. “My sister, Deanna Gager, nominated me. She must have written a fabulous essay. It had to be her that got me this award.”
This year, Gearty is teaching 3rd grade at Scarselli and finds that, because her students are excited about school and learning, it is a great age to teach.
“There is a big jump between 2nd and 3rd grade,” said Gearty. “And the kids are so responsive. Other teachers tease me about being obsessive-compulsive about organization, but I’m willing to throw all that out if one of the kids brings up something that will make a great lesson.”
Gearty’s time away from school is spent with her husband, Stephen, who is the director of slots operations at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, and daughters, Kristi and Erin, who are students at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
“I’m coaching my daughter’s competitive soccer team this year,” said Gearty, who has coached for seven years. “And we love to go camping and hiking. Yosemite is my Mecca.”
Gearty’s newest passion is Aero Kick, a combination of aerobic exercise and kick boxing.
“It’s a kick,” said Gearty, and then laughed at her choice of words. “I go three times a week. Believe it or not, I come away calmed. I love the activity.”
Gearty must thrive on activity because as the “floating” teacher in a multi-track school, her class moves to a new room every month.
“But it isn’t a problem for me,” said Gearty. “I’m so new at teaching that I don’t have a lot of stuff to move, plus all the other teachers are so supportive.”
According to Gearty, being a teacher is everything that she dreamed it would be – and more.
“I love working with so many little lives. I like the diversity. You never know what is going to happen from day to day. It’s exciting and challenging.” Gearty then laughed. “I’m living my dream-come-true by teaching, but I have to tell you that I think you have to be a little bit crazy to be a teacher.”