From the Iowa State Fair being held across the street to the return of teachers preparing for a new school year, mid-August is always a fun and exciting time at and around Willard Elementary School. This year is even more memorable as two former students – Htee Moo and Day Say – returned as first year teachers.
Htee and Day began their time with DMPS as classmates and ELL students at Willard. Over the years each recognized the value of education and the impact a teacher can have on the lives of their students, and began to consider it as a career, taking part in programs such as the district’s Dream to Teach initiative, before graduating from Iowa State University, where they even spent time as college roommates.
Htee and her family came to the United States from Myanmar in January 2008, when she began 2nd grade at Willard.
“The teacher at Willard helped me through my tough times while trying to learn English,” she said. “Willard was the school that helped me start my journey to be where I am today as an educator.”
Day was born in Thailand and started 1st grade at Willard a few months after arriving in Iowa. Her parents are from Burma, and she is Knyaw, also known as Karen.
“From what I remember, Willard was the best experience I had,” she noted. “I remember the fun field days and just how awesome the school is, and I had great friends and teachers.”
Today, Day teaches Kindergarten and Htee first grade, a career path that began when they themselves were in the classrooms of Willard.
“Many teachers impacted my life throughout the years,” added Day. “Learning English was not easy. Just seeing how teachers were patient with me and how loving and caring they were, they inspired me to become an educator.”
“I wanted to be an educator because I want other children to get the same opportunity as me,” said Htee. “I want to be able to give back to the community and have more teachers of my own race. Education has always played a big important role in my life. From elementary through high school, I had many teachers who have impacted my life, so I want to be that teacher who also impacts other students’ lives. I am passionate about helping students learn, grow, and be accepted for who they are as a person. I love to see each student grow into a unique person.”
While the start of the 2023-24 school year was hotter than usual – including an early dismissal on the second day of classes – the heat didn’t wilt their enthusiasm for returning to Willard as teachers.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the students and learning from each other as the year goes on,” said Day.
“I am looking for a great new school year as a first-year teacher,” added Htee. “I know there are challenges along the way, but I am up for that and will learn along with my students. I cannot wait to meet my first group of first graders and get to know each one of them by creating a lot of great memories through learning and fun activities.”
While principal Julie Kruse – who joined Willard while Htee and Day were students there – is excited to welcome two alums back as teachers, both Htee and Day expressed their gratitude for the support she and everyone at the school has shown them in helping to begin their careers as educators.
As Day points out: “Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”