Kim Worley received the Vale Chamber of Commerce’s Elementary Educator of the Year award at its annual banquet in June. Worley (above left) stands with Vale Chamber of Commerce President Jessica Kulm. Worley – a 17-year teaching veteran – is an instructor at Willowcreek Elementary School where she teachers seventh and eighth grade. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

VALE — Kim Worley has wanted to be a teacher since seventh grade.

When the Vale Chamber of Commerce recently named her Elementary Educator of the Year, the recognition held more weight than just the wooden plaque.

“What made this award even more special was that it was chosen by the community,” Worley said. “I’ve always wanted to be the best teacher, so I felt like I made it.”

Worley, a teacher of 17 years, teaches seventh and eighth grade at Willowcreek Elementary School. Her inspiration for becoming an educator was her own seventh grade teacher, who shared how rewarding the job was. 

Having always enjoyed education herself, Worley set out to receive a bachelor’s in education, a master’s in mathematics and a professional teaching certificate. While her degrees qualified her for a teaching career, Worley believes that she is doing what she was born to do.

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“I fully believe that you can’t teach someone to be a teacher,” Worley said. “You’re born to be a teacher and you perfect your craft.”

Passion fills her tone when she talks about teaching and the gratitude for her students, past and present.

Worley relishes the opportunity to mull over morals and values with her students. While the fundamentals of a curriculum are important, it’s the life skill of tenacity that Worley believes is the root of success.

“I taught them how to work. I taught them grit. I taught them how to do it themselves,” Worley said. “If you have strong work ethic, you can battle through anything.”

It’s not unusual for students to come back and tell Worley that she was the toughest teacher they ever had, but they thank her for the high expectations she placed on them because it helped them succeed.

“You can’t BS them. They know if you don’t care,” Worley said. “They believe they can do it because I believe they can do it.”

From developing her own curriculum, to knowing more about her students than any state test could tell her, Worley is confident in her abilities as a teacher. But even with all that confidence, she was honored that her previous students, who are now in high school, nominated her for the award.

“They’ve had 9 or 10 years of teachers, and they picked me,” Worley said.

Have a news tip? Reporter Isabella Garcia: isabellagenterprise@gmail.com or 541-473-3377.

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