As a second-grade teacher, Melanie Kurtz is guiding young Reede Gray Elementary School students as they learn about concepts, such as main idea, telling time and the rules, rights and responsibilities of being part of the United States.

“They are eager to learn,” said Kurtz, who is teaching in the local school district for the first time this year.

However, Kurtz is not a first-time teacher.

Originally from Ohio, Kurtz earned her degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University and soon after began her career as an educator.

Kurtz said she knew from an early age that she would be a teacher.

“That has never changed,” said Kurtz, adding while she was in high school she had the opportunity to interact with kids in various settings, including as a babysitter, and in those times she learned just how much she enjoyed being around kids.

Now in her 10th year as a teacher, Kurtz most recently was working at the ECHO Charter School where she gained experience working with different grade levels.

It was in 2010 that Kurtz found her way to Minnesota. Kurtz married a Minnesotan, and the family opted to move to the Echo area that year. Kurtz said she had made visits to Minnesota prior to the move, adding with a smile, those visits never happened in the winter.  Kurtz added that first winter, 2010-11, certainly was a welcome introduction to that time of the year.

With her early childhood education degree, Kurtz is able to teach students through third grade, but when given the option she picked working with second graders.

“That is where I have the most experience as a teacher,” said Kurtz, adding she enjoys second graders, because they are at a time in their lives where they are learning to be independent. “They are doing more things on their own, but they still need their teachers. For me, that is a good mix.”

Kurtz, who lives with her family on a farm north of Echo, said she chose the Redwood Area School District, because she likes what the school offers. She added the chance to work with one grade level as an educator appealed to her.

Kurtz said things have been going well in her new teaching role, adding the staff has been very welcoming and the mentoring program has been nice.

“There is so much support here,” she said. “People are constantly asking me if I need help.”

Then, she added, they are more than willing to provide it for her.

Kurtz and her husband, Mike, have three children, Paxton, Brinley and Easton, and for Kurtz, spending time with them is what takes up most of her time outside of school.

In any other time she may have, Kurtz also enjoys decorating, crafting and visiting her family back in Ohio.

Kurtz said she was the first grandchild on either side of her family to earn a college degree, adding that her decision to become a teacher was something her family supported.

Now she is feeling that same level of support as a teacher from her new school family in the Redwood Area School District.