“What job is better than being a teacher? It has allowed me to both be good at my job and also be a good mom.”
Reece, a mother of 10, has spent her entire 21-year career in education at the Clark County School District. For the last seven years, she has served as principal at Rundle Elementary School. She said it’s the best job but not always the easiest.
“In this school, we all have a hard job. At times, it’s a heart-wrenching job,” said Reece. “There’s not many days that we don’t call Child Protective Services. But I can say there are more wins than not.”
Reece started her career as a substitute teacher while getting her master’s degree. Since then, she has taught first and fifth graders, kids with autism, and has worked with teachers as a learning strategist. Before taking on the role of principal, Reece was an assistant principal for three years. All the schools she has worked at have been Title 1 Schools.
“I love working at these schools because I know these are places where I can make a difference.”
Reece says since she stepped into the role as principal, she has made changes that turned her school into a hub for the community. She started by taking care of the physical things that would boost school pride, like getting rid of piles of textbooks and papers along with broken furniture that used to line the hallways. Then she created more activities throughout the year to engage both the staff and parents.
“When I first started this program, I had only had seven people show up for these activities. Seven people total. I had more staff members than I had parents and students,” said Reece. “Today, we are proud to say we have anywhere between 500 to 1000 students and families show up to each of the engagement activities. We have at least one activity each month, and attendance is always amazing.”
Reece says her proudest accomplishments have been in helping to positively transform the lives of her students. She said one story that has really stuck with her is one that happened recently involving a fifth grader. Reece said this girl had such a horrific home life that she had to call suicide protocol on the student several times. Reece says she made it a point to check in on this girl daily and even had one of her own children, who is now an adult, come in every Friday to talk with the student. That effort paid off when the girl came to Reece for an unexpected conversation at the end of the school year.
“She came to me and said she had found a box of razor blades that she had hidden away because she was cutting,” said Reece. “She told me then that she didn’t want to cut herself anymore, so she didn’t need these blades anymore. And she wanted me to have them. I was so relieved because I knew I was about to lose her to middle school, and I wanted to make sure she was okay. And I think she will be."
Reece says community partners across Southern Nevada have also been instrumental in launching projects that helped her students get resources they would otherwise go without. One project is called “Closets for Good,” sponsored by Zappos. This closet, which was set up a few years ago at Rundle, contains everything from food, clothing, shoes, socks, underwear, and personal hygiene products. Zappos donates to this closet every month so it stays stocked with things that the students and their families can use.
"A lot of my kids, if we don’t feed them, they don’t eat," said Reece. “There are never enough weekend bags for food. If anyone asks what we need, it’s socks and underwear because that’s a luxury for a lot of families who can’t even afford food. My biggest challenge is getting the students what they need to educate them. The kids need to have food, and they need to feel safe. They need those things before they can think about sitting down to learn."
Reece says that despite the current teacher shortage crisis, her school is among the ones that are fully staffed. She credits that to her teachers sharing her academic vision as exemplified by Rundle Elementary's motto: “Changing the world one small act of kindness at a time.”
“There’s no one in my school that’s more important than anyone else. I don’t care what my job is or what their job is. Everyone is as important as the next. The custodians, the support staff, the teachers, and myself.”
Throughout her career, Reece has received a number of awards and recognitions, but Reece said what she's most proud of is what she sees every day when she steps inside her school.
"I don't leave there a single day without getting 300 to 400 hugs," said Reece. "If you need something special in life, just come to my school. I know every kid's name. I know their stories. I know their families. That's my job, and I have the best job in the world. I really do have the best job in the entire world."