VIDEO — Meet the Nederland educator chosen as Teacher of the Month

Published 12:32 am Sunday, October 2, 2022

NEDERLAND — As the halls of Helena Park Elementary School filled with class change, prekindergarten teacher Krista Pastorella stood with her line of students going over safety lessons.

“What do we do in the event we get fire on our clothes?” she asked the tiny students, all eager to answer. “That’s right: We stop, drop and roll.”

Pastorella was unaware she was standing near a group of administrators preparing to surprise her with news she had been chosen as Teacher of the Month, sponsored by Philpott Motors, which comes with a $500 gift card.

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Instead, she put all of her focus on her students as they patiently waited their turn to return to class.

“She is phenomenal with our youngest students,” said principal Charlotte Junot. “Her expectations are exactly where they need to be; and all of her kiddos, when they leave, they are super ready for kindergarten, so it’s important that parents are eager to get their children into our pre-K program.”

Pastorella didn’t begin her teaching career with such young children, spending her first two years teaching Life Skills to sixth through eighth graders in the Bridge City Independent School District. She then returned to the very elementary she once attended, where she’s now in her fifth year as a pre-k teacher.

“I’ve always loved the little kids. Ever since I was in high school, I’ve worked in daycares,” she said. “I’ve always loved it — especially the little ones. You get to watch them grow up. They start off here and you’re able to see how they grow. My first kids are now in third grade, so I’ve seen how they started out in pre-k and now how they’re doing in third grade.”

The Nederland Independent School District prekindergarten program is split into half-days, with classes in the morning and afternoon.

“She juggles, right now, 17 students in her morning and afternoon class each, and she does a fantastic job,” Junot said. “It’s their first experience with school — not just academics but behaviors, social skills and skills for life. There are lots of great things happening with her.”

At the mention of having two separate classrooms, Pastorella laughed.

“I get to do everything twice,” she said while smiling. “I only have them for three hours, so we shove a lot in at once, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The educator teaches general education pre-k and special education pre-K.

“I get to see the general education kids come in and be a model for my special ed kids who need that general peer model, and just kind of see, ‘this is how we act,’” she said. “But my general education kids get to see, ‘this is how we treat friends who can be different. We can see they are the same as us, but they need different things.’”

Pastorella is a 2009 graduate of Nederland High School. She and husband RJ Pastorella share two children. The pre-k teacher is also a volunteer for the Nederland Heritage Festival.