First Grade

Highland Primary 1st Grade teachers: 
Belinda Counts, Michelle Ficker, Cindy Geest, Brittany McCune, Terri Moss, Carol Smith, and Sara Wilkinson.

I have been privileged to serve young children and their families in the Highland School District since 2002, first as a parent educator with the Prek program and currently as a first grade teacher.  I graduated from SIUE with a Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences in 1988.  After several years working as a medical research assistant, I returned to school to pursue a career as an educator. My training includes a Master’s Degree in Education from SIUE (2004), and certification in both early childhood and elementary education. 

I live here in Highland with my husband, Duke, and our three children Paige, Colleen, and Elijah. In my spare time I enjoy running, weight training, traveling, reading, and following the Cardinals.

Mrs.Counts Classroom Handbook

Email Belinda Counts:

I am Mrs.Michelle Ficker, first grade teacher at Highland Primary. I have thoroughly LOVED teaching since 1985 and have been in the Highland District since 1989. My career includes teaching first grade, second grade, Reading Recovery, and remedial reading. I most enjoy sharing my love of learning with my students as I teach them to read and write in a safe and welcoming environment.

I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 1985 and my Master’s Degree from SIUE in 1995. My continuing education is ongoing.

My husband, Steve, and I are extremely proud of our three children, Steven, Joel, and Rose.  Our family enjoys traveling, camping, boating, and swimming. My personal hobbies include reading, gardening, sewing, crafts, cooking, and scrap booking. 

Mrs. Ficker's Classroom Handbook

Email Michelle Ficker:

Hello!  My name is Cindy Geest and I am a first grade teacher at Highland Primary. My husband Scott and our three children, Jack, Hannah, and Nolan love spending time together at our home in the country, following sports, and relaxing with family and friends! I graduated with a degree in elementary education from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1995 and have taught a variety of grade levels in Illinois, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.  While I was home with my children I received my Master’s degree in Education from Greenville College in 2008.

I am so excited to be your child’s first grade teacher.  It is the most exciting grade to teach and the amount of growth that you will see in your child this year will astound you!  I am glad to have you on my team as we educate your child and give them a love of learning.  Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions through our district email or make an appointment with me and I would be happy to meet with you.  Thanks for sharing your child with me on this journey!

Mrs. Geest Classroom Handbook

Email Cindy Geest:


Hello! My name is Brittany McCune and I am ecstatic to be apart of the Highland Primary team. This is my first year in the district and I am already proud to be apart of it. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Illinois State University. I have spent one year in a first grade classroom and I love the growth each child makes in a year’s length! It is very encouraging as an educator.

I grew up in Northwestern Illinois on my family farm and have moved to Highland to further my career in education. I am looking forward to a year of communicating with you as well as facilitating a positive classroom full of growth. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Email Brittany McCune:

My name is Terri Moss and I have had the honor of teaching first grade for eight years at Highland Primary (as of 2014). I love working with first graders and watching them grow into young readers and writers. I truly love coming to work each day.

I am a graduate of Highland High School and SIUE with my degree in Elementary Education. I spent many years working at our family business while my kids were young and I also spent a couple of years substitute teaching before working full time at Highland Primary. My husband and I have three wonderful sons that are growing up way too fast and keeping us very busy, but I wouldn't want it any other way!

Email Terri Moss:

My name is Carol Smith.  I am a first grade teacher at Highland Primary.  I began teaching for the Highland Community School District in 2007.  I earned my Bachelor's Degree from SIUE and have been teaching primary grades since 1987.  In 2006 I received my Reading Endorsement from McKendree University and in 2011 earned my Master's Degree as a Reading Specialist from SIUE.

I live in Highland with my husband Steve.  We have two sons, Matthew and Tyler.  I enjoy spending time with my family, shopping, scrapbooking, and reading.  Teaching first grade is a joy for me as I observe students' academic growth during this year.  Each year I look forward to providing a positive learning experience for children.

Mrs. Smith's Classroom Handbook

Email Carol Smith:

My name is Sara Wilkinson. I grew up in Highland and graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2006 with an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education. I have wanted to work with children for as long as I can remember and am so pleased to be doing so in such a great district. I started working in the Highland Community Schools in 2006 as a substitute teacher. I have worked within the Highland School District since and have taught first grade since 2009. 

I have a daughter who also keeps me very busy. We enjoy going to the park, visiting the zoo, reading, and doing puzzles together.

Email Sara