REED CITY — Fifth-grade teacher Holly Mund knew how to create lesson plans and engage students when she graduated college, but some important facets of being a teacher were a surprise to her.

“It surprised me how much you make a connection with the kids and how important you are to them,” she said. “I love having that kind of connection with the kids — it feels like this isn’t just a job. I have a purpose.”

Now in her second year, Mund teaches at G.T. Norman Elementary School in Reed City after graduating

from Grand Valley State University in the spring of 2015. She was hired in July and started that August, coming home to her roots. Both Mund and her husband attended Reed City Area Public Schools.

“I got a really awesome deal,” she said. “There were a couple openings right as I graduated.”

Another surprise Mund experienced as a first-year teacher came in the form of “the extras” — and how important they were to the school day.

“I student-taught at Tri County and it was a great experience,” she said. “Especially the last couple of months, creating lessons and teaching lessons, I thought I was ready to engage students and help them learn.

“I feel like I wasn’t prepared for all the extras, though — the bake sales, popcorn days, assemblies, things like that. I knew those were included in a school experience, but I didn’t realize how much they were important, for creating community. There’s so much more to this than just teaching.”

While Mund may not have realized the entire scope of a teacher’s day, she’s jumped in with both feet as a new teacher.

“Holly has been a great addition to the staff,” said G.T. Norman Principal DeAnn

a Goodman. “She’s energetic and brings a new aspect to learning. She’s full of ideas and is a go-getter who’s volunteered for many committees.”

Mund’s students also notice her level of enthusiasm and desire for them to succeed.

“She’s fun and she really likes to read,” said fifth-grader Mariah Somers. “Sometimes she has cool methods and songs she gives you to use to remember things. She’s really, really, really helpful. If anybody doesn’t get something, she’ll pull them back to her desk and help them until they get it.”

Classmate Roy Cervantes appreciates Mund’s sense of fun in the school day.

“She’s one of the teachers who does different things than other classrooms,” Cervantes said. “For the Halloween party, she bought us pumpkins and made games for us instead of just normal lessons. We were the only class in our grade doing a fun Halloween party instead of just having the parade outside.”

Mund tries to mix in fun events to help her students enjoy learning as much as she did as a student and to create a sense of community.

“School has always been like a second home for me,” she said. “I want to give my students the experience that I care about them.”

Helping her students care about others also is important for Mund. While she focuses on a good educational background for each child, she also wants them to know caring for others is an important trait.

“I really want my kids to make gains educationally, but I think I need to make them feel comfortable, too,” she said. “In real life, being smart has nothing to do with being a good person.”