Visitors to Krystil Irvin's classroom immediately notice overstuffed bookshelves are tucked into every available space. "I love literature," she said. "I would be content to spend all my days on a couch with a blanket and a book. My parents said I've always felt passionately about reading. Before I even knew how, I would try to read the words on the page."
Today, Irvin tries to ignite that passion in her eighth-grade language arts students at Crestdale Middle. "I love being able to pass a love of literature on to them," she said.
Irvin was born in Freeport, N.Y., and moved to Weddington when she was seven. She graduated from Union County Public Schools. Teaching wasn't always her dream. "When I was little, I did make my stuffed animals be my students so I could practice teaching," she said. "I knew I wanted to work with kids but I thought maybe I'd be a therapist."
She started as a psychology major at Furman University. Her sophomore year, her course work became very research-focused. "That just wasn't right for my personality," she said. She switched her major to English.
After graduation, she attended a CMS job fair. Crestdale was the first school she was interested in and she's been there ever since. "I enjoy everything about teaching middle school," she said. "These kids are quirky, funny, dramatic and unpredictable. They're becoming the people they are going to be and I love being a part of that."
Principal Jennifer Schroeder recently organized a school-wide assembly to talk to students about her expectations for the fourth quarter. Irvin attended and wondered why the band was playing. Then her family walked in. "It suddenly occurred to me what was happening," she said.
Schroeder announced that Irvin is the Teacher of the Year for the East Learning Community. "My students got to speak and I basically cried the whole time," Irvin said. "It's such an honor to invest in these kids. I hope that's what my co-workers see in me."
Irvin is a resident of Matthews and said Crestdale is home. "The staff here is my family. We share, plan and work together. My best friends are here."
She learned about the importance of student relationships during her first year of teaching. "I had a student that, to say he was struggling would be a huge understatement," she said. "I worked so hard to help him understand that he had an adult that cared about him. There was an adult invested in him. We keep in touch today and I know I made a difference."
That's a goal that Irvin has carried ever since. "I want every student to know that they have someone that cares about them and is invested in their success."
Irvin got married more than two years ago and many of the pews were filled with former students. "A lot of people keep asking me when I am having kids," she said. "I tell them I already have 100."
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