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Payne teaches students to embrace their uniqueness and to become encouragers

    11.09.18 | Alumni Education Career Success Story: Education

    Southern Wesleyan University Education graduate Kayla Payne works with her second-graders at Armstrong Elementary in Greenville. Once reluctant to become a teacher, Payne now enthusiastically embraces her role as an educator.

    If there’s a lasting lesson 2018 Southern Wesleyan University Education graduate Kayla Payne hopes her second-grade students at Armstrong Elementary School take away from her classroom, it’s that they learn how to appreciate each other’s differences.

    “In my classroom one of the things my students know I don’t tolerate is calling each other names. We’re not going to do it,” said Payne, who has lived with dwarfism herself and encourages her students to appreciate ways they are unique.

    In fact, Payne’s students came to her defense when someone in the school hallway called her a name.

    “My kids were the first to say ‘no, she’s my teacher. That’s not nice.’ That warmed my heart, and that was within the first week of school,” Payne said.

    Building confidence

    Growing up, Payne received no encouragement from home to become a teacher or much of anything else.

    “I often like to joke around and say that God and I had this agreement that I would never teach, but in reality, God brought me back full circle, and I am thankful that He did,” Payne said. Through the years many would come alongside Payne to nudge her in that direction. She would come to embrace the profession she was once hesitant to enter.

    When she stayed with her grandparents after school, Payne would often play school with her grandmother.

    “These times were precious to both of us, and it helped me to realize that there was something within that told me I wanted to teach,” she said.

    “When I got into my teaching classes and to start planning lessons and assessments it was confirmed and sealed that teaching was indeed what God had planned for me to do when He created me,” she said.

    “Honestly, seeing a student’s light bulb go off and seeing them smiling, cheering or getting excited saying ‘I get it Ms. Payne!’ is a teacher’s dream; it makes my heart just flood with excitement and  makes me smile the biggest smile – not because of anything I did, but because I know that this ‘light bulb moment’ is confirming to that child that they are indeed smart, that they can do whatever they thought was impossible and because it makes learning become something they enjoy and not just something they have to do with dread,” Payne said.

    Coming to SWU

    “As a child I grew up going to Table Rock Wesleyan Camp and each year I would hear someone talk about this small, Wesleyan Christian community and how much it was like a family atmosphere where you were a name and not a number, which is something I have always loved,” Payne said. What she calls her second chance at life came at age 21 when a Southern Wesleyan graduate pulled Payne from “a not so good situation” and opened her home.

    Recalling when she was accepted as a Southern Wesleyan student, Payne said, “The day I got the letter in the mail was so surreal, I remember telling my friend Martha Rampey to pinch me, for I thought all those years at camp hearing others share their SWU stories that I never would have my own SWU story. I am so proud to say that is no longer true, for I am a proud 2018 SWU alumna!”

    Being an education major at Southern Wesleyan bolstered Payne’s confidence, so she could be sure she was ready by the first day of class.

    “They taught me to be consistent in my classroom management, to make my room and layout fit myself, how to write detailed lesson plans, how to do a SLO (student learning objective), how to differentiate lessons to fit each student’s needs, how to annotate assessments so that you know what skills these students need to be challenged with and which ones they need to be re-taught, how to hold students accountable for their own learning and behavior – most of all, the importance of giving students’ positive reinforcement!

    On a video produced by the Greenville County School District, Payne tells her story of overcoming adversity and thriving along with her students in the classroom. The video has gone viral, with many thousands of likes and more than 20,000 shares, each gaining more likes daily.

    Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused, faith-filled community that offers inventive learning experiences. The university endeavors to prepare its students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. At the same time, it’s Southern Wesleyan’s desire to practice contagious generosity within the surrounding community. For details about degree programs, go online to

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