Cynthia “Cindi” Messerli has been a teacher for 20 years, and her family is enormous.
That’s not because she has a lot of children, though six kids do keep her on her toes. It’s because she loves every single child she teaches as if they were her own.
“We call each other our kindergarten family, and that’s how we treat each other,” said Messerli, who teaches at Simmons Elementary School in North Las Vegas. “I have a lot of family now. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids. I feel like they’re a part of my family.”
There are 28 kids in her class now, but her older students — from first-graders to high school seniors — are frequent visitors and stay in touch.
“She is able to connect with the kids, and that’s a big deal as an educator,” said Lisa Dalton, a fellow educator whose son is Messerli’s student this year. “She’s really in tune to kids’ behavior. I know that next year’s teacher has some pretty big shoes to fill.”
Dalton nominated Messerli for the May Clark County Educator of the Month award. All monthly winners will be honored at an end-of-school-year banquet, where an Educator of the Year will be named.
Messerli was chosen from a list of nominees by a panel that includes members of the Clark County School Board, Public Education Foundation, PTA and Teach for America.
The children love and trust Messerli, and seek her out for all problems, big or small.
“I truly believe these kids know I’m one of their biggest cheerleaders,” Messerli said. “They know that it’s a safe environment. They can ask me anything. It’s just love. I get lots of hugs throughout the day.”
Being a teacher was never just a job for Messerli; it was a calling. Her parents and sister are teachers, and it seemed the natural route to take when she was in college.
Messerli earned her bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts and has a master’s degree from Lesley University in the same state.
“I know that I’m doing what I am supposed to do,” said Messerli, who has taught for 16 years in the Clark County School District. “I know it’s fulfilling my life. I feel blessed to work with so many kids and help so many families.”
Helping students adjust, teaching them new things, and watching them grow as students and people are a big bonus for Messerli.
“I thought of Messerli because of what I see with (my son) Aidan,” Dalton said of why she nominated Messerli. “And not just him, but all the kids. She inspires them to be lifelong learners. It’s the foundation for everything ahead of them.”
Messerli’s skills extend beyond bonding with children.
“I also think she does a good job making parents feel welcome in the community as well,” Dalton said. “Parents are always standing around waiting to talk to her.”
She also is very connected to other teachers.
“I think that’s such a great thing about teachers. We really support each other,” Messerli said. “Teachers support teachers because we know what the job is like.”
“She inspires me to be a better educator as well,” Dalton said. “She’s so stinkin’ cute, too.”
Messerli spent a good portion of this year on a campaign, “Love Over Everything.” The campaign is in memory of her friend and fellow educator, Chris Loe, who died of leukemia last year.
Messerli’s campaign shares initials with Loe, whose wife teaches at Antonello Elementary School with Dalton, and whose daughter is now in Messerli’s class. It includes cancer awareness and fundraisers, as well as the planting of a tree, rock and plaque in the Simmons’ kindergarten playground dedicated to Loe and T-shirts in his honor that the students wear on Mondays.
“He was such a positive person in every way,” Messerli said of Loe. “(This) was kind of a movement to show people how to live.”
This year, kindergarten commencement was especially touching because it was an affair guided by the beloved music teacher’s memory, including songs that embody his personality or that he picked out before his passing.
“It’s a big celebration but it’s bittersweet because I have to say goodbye,” Messerli said. “I start crying in the beginning of May.”
As the school year closes, Messerli looks back on all the wonderful memories she made with this year’s class, and looks forward to all the new friends that she will get in the coming year.
“I know I’ve made a difference in children’s lives,” Messerli said. “But I know they’ve made a difference in mine. Every one of them has made a mark in my life.”
Contact Rochel Leah Goldblatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0264.