“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I forced my younger sister to play school and I always got to be the teacher.”
Graves’ inspiration came from Suzette Hartley, her second grade teacher at Bourbon Central. For nine years, Graves has taught at the elementary school she attended.
“Ms. Hartley instilled a love of learning in me,” Graves said. “She was energetic, enthusiastic, and she pushed me into a leadership role in the class.”
Those lessons stuck with Graves, who has earned a master’s degree in library science and just completed her studies to become a principal. And she’s only 31 years old.
“She plays a leadership role at the school,” Bourbon Central Principal Keith Madill said. “And any opportunity to do something extra for the school, she does it with excellence.”
Graves serves on the school leadership team and is eager to move into administration where she would see her role as a teacher advocate.
“This is a tough job,” she said. “I would enjoy working with teachers and being their support system.”
Not that she doesn’t enjoy working with her students. In fact, that’s the most gratifying part of her job.
“I love seeing the light bulb go off when they understand something,” she said. “You see their smile and the excitement on their face. That’s the best.”
Working with kids has been central to Graves’ career.
In high school, she worked in daycare and started work as a substitute in Bourbon County when she was still a junior in college. She attended classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and subbed on Tuesday and Thursday.
After graduation, she was hired full time to teach second grade at Bourbon Central – the same class where she was first inspired by Ms. Hartley.
Two years in second grade, six in third and now her first year in fifth, Graves applies the same lessons to her craft she learned from her mentor.
“Compassion and building relationships with kids, just like the relationship Miss Hartley built with me,” she said. “Kids need to trust you before they can learn from you. I try to keep in touch with what each student needs.”