CSW Spotlight: Chelsea Haigwood

'Here for a reason'

Chelsea Haigwood found her calling to be a teacher when she was a student. For her, it was the love and fostering she experienced from kindergarten through 8th grade at St. Peter School in Greenville that made her want to help children in the same way.

As a 4th grader, Chelsea began flipping her numbers and struggling with her Bs and Ds. Her teacher, Liz Diaz-Cobo, who still teaches at St. Peter, noticed and spoke with her parents.

Chelsea was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I remember her working with me that year one-on-one, and helping me to see that, ‘Yes you are special and different, but you are gonna be fine,’” Chelsea said.

Chelsea remembers every teacher she had from every year. “I always remember coming to school just knowing I was going to be loved, and whoever I had that year was going to take their time with me and be patient.”

Those experiences remain an inspiration for her now.

She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in elementary education and a concentration in child studies. She attended a job fair and saw Joe Nelson, the principal at St. Peter at the time.

“I never thought that would even be an opportunity,” Chelsea said. “When I saw him in that booth, that’s when I knew ‘This is meant to be. You’re here for a reason.’”

Chelsea joined St. Peter School’s staff nine years ago, working with some of the same teachers she had when she was a student. She now teaches middle school science. Recently, her 7th grade class swabbed the classroom in various places to grow bacteria. The 8th grade created a thermal insulator to keep an ice cube frozen.

COVID-19, of course, has made teaching more of a challenge the last two years, forcing switches between in-school and virtual learning, or a hybrid of both. For teachers, that means double work, double classroom management, double eyes on the students.

“Yes, I am more tired than normal, but I am not burned out because I have a supportive community,” Chelsea said.

That supportive environment is a hallmark of the Catholic community fostered at St. Peter through shared values, daily prayers and weekly Mass.

“Our all-school Masses on Fridays are one of my favorite things that we get to do with our students,” Chelsea said. “Just listening to all the kids sing and participate in Mass … it’s really wonderful.”

Chelsea said she aims to teach with love in her heart.

“Just being able to have gone through this school, being taught about Jesus, being taught ‘love each other’ — I feel like I’m able to use that and not only teach my kids science but teach them how to be a good human being.”