She’s a social studies teacher at Coral Shores who also helps young swimmers compete at the highest level in the pool. Kelly Kater was recently recognized for her work in the classroom throughout the year as she was named Teacher of the Year at Coral Shores. The Upper Keys Weekly, with help from the Coral Shores journalism class, had the chance to sit down with Kater to discuss her young teaching career and her reaction to receiving the distinction. 

How many years have you been a teacher? How many years have you been a teacher at Coral Shores?
I have been a teacher at Coral Shores for 5 years. I started my career here – moving fresh out of college down to the Keys to start teaching in 2016. It was one of the craziest things I have done, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! I am grateful for every year I have spent at Coral Shores and in the Upper Keys community.

What subject do you teach?
I teach social studies. Currently I teach AP Macroeconomics to seniors and a few juniors, and world cultural geography to freshmen. I have also taught American government and economics with financial literacy.

What about teaching do you enjoy the most?
My favorite part of teaching is watching my students learn to love my content area like I do. I live for the “lightbulb” moments my students have when they get a new concept, or make a connection from a historical event to their own lives or the modern day.

What are some challenges you’re currently experiencing with teaching during times of a pandemic?
The hardest thing about teaching in the pandemic is the lack of student collaboration in class. Having to maintain social distancing has prevented me from doing some of my favorite activities with my students – like group work and other partner activities. As convenient as computers are, I don’t think they provide the same means of learning as pencil and paper do. I definitely miss the hands-on learning that took place before the pandemic and I look forward to when we can return to “normal” in the classroom!

What was your reaction when you learned that you won Teacher of the Year? What does the recognition mean to you?
I was honestly shocked but honored. It meant a lot that my colleagues believed I was deserving of such a recognition. I have worked hard since I started my career here at Coral Shores and it felt really nice to be recognized for the work I do.

How would you describe the way you teach?
I would say that I am an “active” teacher – I love getting into the theatrics of teaching and showing my excitement for my curriculum. I also really enjoy seeing my kids apply what we discuss in class in a variety of activities. For me, seeing the kids self-correct and reach conclusions on their own is the most exciting part of my day.

What do you do outside of teaching? Are you involved with any extracurriculars at school?
I am involved with the Coral Shores Swimming and Diving Program as coach with Jon Olsen. I work specifically on the diving side of the pool and have loved getting the opportunity to coach high school athletes in springboard diving. Coaching at Coral Shores opened up an opportunity for me to work through Founders Park as the recreational diving coach for the community as well. I run a small program at the pool where I get to coach younger athletes and help them learn to love diving as I did in my own childhood and teenage years.

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