Bethany Bell, Carpenter Elementary fourth grade teacher

Bethany Bell grew up in small towns in both Kansas & Iowa.  Her father was a minister and her mother was a homemaker, and she has two younger brothers. Bell earned her elementary education degree at the University of Northern Iowa, and her master’s degree in special education at Eastern Michigan University.

For the past 15 years, she has taught a variety of ages ranging from preschool through 8th grade in both general and special education capacities over the past 15 years. She is currently starting her third year at Carpenter teaching 4th grade.  Bell lives in Ypsilanti with her husband, Bernard, a fellow educator, and their three boys, Oliver, Gabe, and TJ. Their older daughter, Taylar, lives with her family out of state. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, reading, and spending time with her friends and family, as well as her dog, Harbaugh, and cat, Blueberry.  

“Mrs. Bell is sweet and she’s kind and she’s thoughtful,” said Madden, a fifth grader who enjoys chatting with Bell on the playground, and exchanging a special handshake. “She’s one of the nicest teachers here.”

Notes Principal Michael Johnson: “Whether it is participating in WISD-sponsored summer professional development or reading chapter books to make sure that she is offering a wide range of interests and genres, Mrs. Bell is showing what `The Carpenter Way’ is this year. We are grateful for all educators like Mrs. Bell who have taken these summer weeks and retooled, re-energized, and reconnected to their `Why?'”

How do you feel about the 2022-23 school year, and the emphasis on dignity?
I am excited for the 2022-2023 school year and the focus on the dignity of all children and their families.  My hope is that this will instill a sense of belonging in students and that they will know their value.  Listening to our students, learning about their cultures and backgrounds, and being open to learning new ideas about others will help create a classroom environment where all students will feel recognized and respected. 

How long does it take you to get back into the rhythm of the school year?
I start getting back into the school mindset a few weeks before school starts, thinking about what the year will look like, reflecting on the previous year, and setting new goals for the current year.  These ideas are refined upon meeting my students and learning about them and their families.  It usually takes me until late September to find my groove and establish my rhythms and routines for the year.  

Any tips for new teachers? What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?

  1. Ask lots of questions.  It can be intimidating to ask for help when you’re new, but you’ll find most teachers have a wealth of information about what you need to know and are more than willing to share their knowledge with you.  
  2. Find yourself a mentor teacher to learn from and build a relationship with them.  They will teach you so much about teaching and life in general.  
  3. Set up systems and procedures for the students and yourself.  These will help streamline your entire life and make it all more manageable.  
  4. Don’t be afraid to revise your thinking or way of doing something when you see that it’s not working.  
  5. The relationships you build with your students and their families are the most important part of our job.  Make it your number one priority!

How do you let your students know they belong?
I focus on getting to know students as individuals, learning about their families and interests, and creating an environment where all feel safe and valued for their uniqueness.  I make sure students have a space to call their own within the classroom as well as a space for them to get the supplies, materials, snacks, and personal items they may need so that everyone feels like they have what they need to be a successful part of our community.  We spend a lot of time throughout the year building community, learning how to interact with others, and trying to form new connections with others through shared commonalities and experiences.

When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
My first year of teaching was in a K-1 classroom for students with special needs.  I still have vivid memories of the faces of that first class and how we learned together.  They taught me as much, if not more than I taught them that year about what it meant to be part of a classroom community and to have each other’s backs.  I remember a day towards the end of the school year seeing the students’ faces beaming with pride as they shared their growth and accomplishments with their families and other classrooms.  While I also was proud of them, it was seeing them realize their abilities that warmed my heart and pushed me to continue my teaching journey. 

What inspired you to become a teacher?
Throughout college, I worked in a child development center.  I was originally a business major in college but switched to education after seeing the light and joy in students’ eyes when they figured something out for the first time or realized they could do something.  I wanted to continue to see that spark and help foster moments of joy for more and more students. 

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
I made a positive impact on their lives in some way.

In your four years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
The most important thing I’ve learned about teaching and learning is that neither can happen without first a relationship.  Building relationships with students and families and valuing who they are as more than just a student, but as unique individuals is my number one priority.  I know this creates an environment of support where students are able to feel seen and heard both in and out of the classroom walls.  

What’s the happiest part of your day?
The happiest part of my day is greeting the students in the morning.  I stand outside my classroom door and greet each person individually as they arrive, making sure they feel like I’ve seen and connected with them right away in some way.  This also gives me an opportunity to get a gauge of their day so far and adjust my plans accordingly.

Favorite websites:
I use every single day in the classroom.  The different sounds of nature help foster a calm learning space.  The different scenes and sounds also serve as transitions and indicators for what we’re doing, whether that’s a tropical ocean splashing in the background while we are doing our writing or reading, or a crackling fireplace that makes us feel like it is warmer outside than it actually is on those cold January days. 

I also enjoy using the website  It houses a collection of specially curated videos that engage students in thinking about real phenomena occurring around them and promotes creative and critical thinking.  

What makes teaching at Carpenter unique?
Carpenter is unique in the sense that from day one, you are welcomed home by administration, staff, and families, and it is a place that does indeed feel like home. There is such a level of care about each other both professionally and personally.  You’ll find someone willing to help you figure out a home project as well as someone who has a creative way of structuring math groups and everything in between.  There is a united sense of belonging and care for all students and families, a common purpose to do best by students and provide a safe place for all to be successful.  You can see this modeled from the top down, as you see Principal Michael Johnson and Assistant Principal Terra Webster taking time to engage with families and students they encounter throughout their day.  It is evident through their relationships that they care, which sets the tone for the rest of the school community.  

What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?
Students don’t need you to be perfect or know everything.  They need you to see them, value them, and create an environment where everyone feels like they are treated equitably.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
Seeing the grin of pride and excitement on students’ faces when they have accomplished something that was challenging and they didn’t know they could do keeps me going every single day.  We celebrate all the successes, big and small to create a movement of positivity and growth. I strive to see that look on every student’s face. 

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
Teachers are never really “off.”  Even when they leave the building for the night to go to their own homes and families, they carry thoughts of their students with them.  We care about the students as if they were our own children and family members.

How do you recharge?
I recharge by running and spending time with my family and friends.

How do you spend your summers?
My summers are spent doing home projects, exercising, and going to the beach with family and friends.  I also spend time engaging in professional learning and reading to better my practice for the next year.  

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
I am really excited about working with my team!  We are really collaborative and supportive of each other and that can make all the difference in the success of our students and ourselves. 

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