Casey Hassell, Crawford Co. R-1

Casey Hassell in front of class

Casey Hassell’s parents always said she should be a teacher. It took a while, but Casey finally agreed.

“I was stubborn and thought, ‘No, I want to do this instead,” she said, as she headed to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with an emphasis in corporate video. Casey worked in television, video production and promotions before starting a job as a trainer for a call center.

“I was working with adults. I thought that if I could teach adults, I could teach kids. So I went back to school and got my master’s degree,” Casey said.

A friend who was a speech pathologist knew of an opening for a special education teacher at Bourbon Elementary in the Crawford County R-I school district. Casey got the job and is now in her seventh year with the district. She began in kindergarten special education, later moved to fourth grade special ed, and just this year switched to teaching gifted students in grades K-8.

“It’s a new challenge,” Casey said. “I miss the connection I had with my special ed students, but I believe that every kid counts, whether special ed or gifted. They are our community’s future, so I need to be here for them every day.”

She also teaches computer classes and is a Tier 2 leader for Positive Behavior Support (PBS). Casey said flexibility is a key asset. She also does a lot of research and is open to new ideas in education. She finds inspiration and guidance in some, well, unconventional arenas.

“I love Pinterest,” Casey said. “I can find different ideas from all over the country and learn what works and what doesn’t from other teachers’ trial and error.”

Like many Missouri districts, Crawford R-1 is small, with an enrollment of about a thousand students. And like many districts in our state, the community is supportive of the schools.

“The businesses will hold fundraisers, like the backpack program and chili suppers,” Casey said. “One of the churches donated all the first-grade supplies this year. This is a very nurturing community.”

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Casey struggles with encouraging parents to read to their kids at home or even to come to parent-teacher meetings. Money is always an issue, and most students at Bourbon Elementary are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Casey said many kids aren’t sure where they’ll eat or sleep at night.

“I’m more worried about keeping those kids safe than I am about academics,” she said.

Still, Casey loves teaching at Bourbon Elementary. She said that she initially wanted to teach closer to her larger hometown, but became attached to her small district.

“I’m proud to be a Warhawk,” she said. “I love this community.”