Mrs.Rielly teaching student Lucy Paynter

Have you ever met anyone who loves Edgar Allen Poe more than Mrs.Rielly? Well, I got a chance to sit down with her, and here’s what I got to know.

Three things about your life that are different than others?
Three things about my life that are different than others. I’m a boy mom, so I feel that’s different.
Because raising boys is a lot of work and a lot of energy.

I read a lot. I think that probably is different than others. Many people don’t read; I read well and read anything. So it doesn’t really matter to me what I read as long as I’m reading. I think that’s probably different because people like a specific thing they read.

Classroom design is really important to me. It’s important that kids like the room they come in and feel it’s designed to work the best for them.

Mrs.Rielly at work (Kit Finley)

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lancaster, in the country, on a beef farm. I was lucky. I didn’t have to do chores all the time and stuff. But it was nice to grow up there. We had a pretty big acreage, big size woods, and stuff. We spent a lot of time in the woods and outside.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
Oh my gosh, I don’t know! I have a lot of funny childhood memories because I have four siblings. Because we grew up in the country, we are like each other’s first friends, even though we didn’t really like each other growing up. I gave my brother stitches one time because we were playing football in the house. We weren’t supposed to be, and I shoved him into a bookshelf. And he got stitches. So that’s a good memory.

So you had four siblings and a mom and dad?
I have two brothers and two sisters, and I’m the oldest.

Any activities or anything that you liked to do while you were growing up?
I’ve always loved to read. That was, I think, something that I did all the time that probably drove my parents crazy because I didn’t want to do anything else. I was involved in FFA in middle school and for a couple of years in high school. I ran cross country and track, and I really liked that. I’ve always liked reading and writing.

How would your coworkers describe you?
Probably organized.

More organized than the rest of the teachers?
I don’t know about that. It really drives me crazy if I’m not organized. So if I’m having a stressful day, everything has to be organized and cleaned before I have to do what has to get done. Yeah, everything has to look perfect. Then I can do the work I need to do.

What do you most enjoy about your job?
I like the relationships I’m able to make with kids, specifically related to finding books they would read. That’s really important to me. Some former students will still email me or message me on Instagram and ask about books. That makes my day that I still have those connections with kids, but I like the middle school age a lot because they still kind of like school even though they pretend they don’t. They have that perfect sense of teenage humor. Where gross stuff is funny.

What strengths have you gained from working as a teacher?
I think I’ve become more patient. I was never a very patient person. That would probably be the biggest thing because of all the organization stuff. I always was organized.

Anything you wish you did differently while teaching? Like here at this school?
There will always be stuff that I wish I had done differently every year. That’s why my lesson plans change every year because I like to make them better and fit the group of kids. I don’t know about here because here, I’ve always taught seventh and eighth grade. I feel like that’s those are my favorite grades to teach.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your family on the weekends?
We play a lot of football. I love reading to the boys. They’re just very like outside run-around kids. I have special things that I do with each of them. That’s kind of our thing. It depends on which kid it is.

What college did you go to?
I went to La Crosse, and then I transferred to Platteville.

What do you major in?
Initially, I started with journalism. Then, I went into English and graduated with an English degree.

What was your favorite memory from college?
Can it be something naughty that I did? If you got an A first semester in freshman English, you didn’t have to take the second semester. So when I transferred to Platteville, they didn’t have that rule. So now I suddenly had to take an extra year of English that I wouldn’t have had to take at La Crosse. So it was a summer English class and this professor was older. She’d want the lights off and always show up late, and then she would keep us extra late. So it was a group of maybe 10 of us since it was summer school. We moved the clock ahead on time. So when she got there, she thought she was super late. But when we left, we were actually leaving early. I don’t know if she ever figured it out.

What was your fear when going to college, from 12th grade to college?
I had a huge fear of failure; I didn’t want to fail. I had never really failed at anything before. School always pretty much came easily to me. I didn’t have to work for it. Then I took a statistics class, and I tell you guys this all the time. I bombed it because I thought that I didn’t need help. I showed up to my 7:30 class on time every day. I never missed a class. I never missed a homework assignment, but I could not pass the test to save my life. I never asked the professor for help, then I failed. I crashed and burned. I was paying for school myself; my parents couldn’t afford to send five kids to college. I had to pay to retake the class. The second time, I asked for help. I got an A in the class. Failure was my biggest fear, but then it happened. Now, one of my biggest life lessons was how to ask for help.

How would you describe your life as an English teacher?
It’s a lot of grading. I love everything I teach, but it’s just a lot of grading at night. I feel like there are a lot of times when I put my work before my kids. I think they probably suffer from that sometimes. I feel a lot of responsibility with my job, grading stuff and getting it back in a timely manner. Well, It’s just a personal thing. It’s just the thing that bothers me if I don’t.

I think otherwise it’s a lot about that I get to pick some of my favorite writers to talk about. I should have probably gone to school to be a librarian. But nobody wants to say when they’re a senior and going to school to be a librarian because it sounds like the most boring thing ever. Especially when I was growing up, librarians were super ancient and boring. They weren’t like the librarians now. You guys have cool librarians. I should have gone to school for that. I like helping kids. I get to help kids find books., and I get to see the kids that don’t like reading and then try to help them.

Any favorite things that you’ve taught? Like, last year. 😉
I’ve always loved teaching Poe because it’s creepy, and I like creepy things. I always like that “convince me project” where you have to try to talk me into doing something. Because I get to see more of what your interests are. I like every book club we do because I get to tell my husband that I’m doing homework when I’m reading books to find books for you guys.

What do you think was your favorite year of school?
There’s not a lot of pressure to sophomore year. You’re not new. You’re kind of relaxed in the high school environment. You don’t have the pressure to pick a college and take an ACT, and graduate. In my sophomore year, I went with my French Club to France for 20 days, and I learned so much from that trip about culture and history. That was a lot of fun.

What made you come to MP?
I interviewed here actually for the job that Mrs. Staver got. I think what happened was Mrs. McCoy, Mrs. Staver, and I all interviewed for the same job. We all got second interviews for it. So we must have been the finalists for it. I didn’t get it. I’m glad I didn’t because I have taught high school before. I don’t want to teach high school; I’d much rather teach middle school. We live in Belmont; I was very happy in Belmont. Then I interviewed [for the middle school English teacher job] on a whim. I went home and told my husband, who was originally from Darlington and does not necessarily love Mineral Point. I said, “our kids have to go to school there.” Everybody I know, like Miss Dahl, was on the interview board. I think Mrs. Brown was, I think, probably Mr. McGraw. I didn’t know them personally. I was just really impressed with how every decision they make, you guys are first. If I have an argument with another teacher, it’s always because I want what’s best for kids. So you guys are always at the forefront. That doesn’t happen at every school.

What was your favorite thing about our class overall?
I liked a lot of things about your class. It was just a really interesting group. Some of my favorite kids ever came from your group because it’s just like, you have the farm kids, and I can relate to them because I grew up on a farm. You’re just very unique. I would say specifically because of COVID and having to do those Zooms all the time. Some of you would hang out between, having English and reading. The ones that I had for both classes would hang out and stay and show me their dogs. Once Dealya showed me her brother Leo, he was always on our Zooms. There were so many relationships I built with you guys because of COVID. You guys saw my kids running through the screen like crazy. Those are some of my favorite memories from your class, specifically because of COVID. We just got to hang out all the time. I thought Gaige was in the middle of a home invasion and almost called the cops. Some of my best memories are from those Zooms, so I liked that year.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.