Lisa Stallings was planning a career as a physical therapist when a friend suggested she pursue a job as an educator.
"I do not come from a family of educators. It was truly a fluke," recalled Stallings, a first-grade teacher at Coronita Elementary School who was named the 2014 Riverside County Teacher of the Year.
Born in Boulder City, Nev., and raised in Cumberland, Md., Stallings was taking physical therapy courses at Maryland's Frostburg State University. "I wanted to help people, but struggled seeing patients deal with difficult circumstances, so I decided not to claim it as my major," Stallings said. "My friend, who was studying to be a teacher, said, 'You should consider being to be an educator.'"
Stallings began doing some student teaching to see how she liked the job. While working with kindergarten students, as well as in a combination classroom with third- and fourth-graders, she discovered she had a natural gift.
"Apparently I have this way with kids — I have patience that even my mom is surprised by," Stallings said. "I thought: This is going to be a great profession."
After earning a bachelor's degree in elementary education, Stallings was hired at Foothill Elementary School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District.
"When I got hired on the West Coast in a kindergarten classroom, I knew it was my dream profession," she said. "Teaching just seemed like second nature. Classroom management came easy and teaching was exciting."
For the past 20 years, Stallings has taught at Coronita Elementary School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District. One of her favorite aspects of the job is that every day is different.
"The kids say the darndest things," she said. "They're spontaneous, quirky and fun. It's the right fit for me."
Looking back on her 27 years of teaching, Stallings said she still wakes up with excitement every day she goes to school.
"I can hear them lining up outside my door and I get excited," she said. "The neat thing about this job is I'm everything — their teacher, coach, cheerleader, nurse and counselor. There are so many roles that you take on in this position. What I love most is it's a lot of hats. I can't imagine wearing any other hat."