When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
In the ninth grade, I had an awesome history teacher, Dr. Gail Williams, at Bacon County High School. I had just moved from Albany to the family farm in Alma, Ga. and was struggling to meet new friends. She was a great storyteller, who could make the past come alive, and it was exactly what I needed. It was not long before she had instilled in me a love for learning history; I knew then I wanted to be able to do what she did.
What keeps you in the classroom?
Seeing students succeed. To me the most rewarding thing about being in the classroom is seeing the progress and success of students and feeling that in some small way I am partly responsible for creating opportunities for those individual successes to happen.
What character qualities make a great teacher?
Teachers need to be warm, caring, enthusiastic, and adventurous. I think a great teacher needs to have a life-long love of learning and share that curiosity with their students. I also believe a great teacher needs to have high expectations for themselves and others because it’s the model we set that matters even more than the content we teach. A large body of research shows that a teacher’s expectations directly affect student achievement, as students will often give as much or as little as is expected of them.
What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
“All this stuff you keep teaching me is making me anti-illogical.”
What is your favorite technology to use for encouraging students in learning?
Technology in the classroom, while having the potential to be distracting or even disruptive, when used properly also has the potential to change the way we teach. With so many primary source documents available online, the internet gives my students the opportunity both to learn history and actually become historians conducting serious historical research. My students and I often use databases like familysearch.com to pour over 19th century documents without having to take a trip to the courthouse.
Technology allows students to conduct far more and deeper research than was previously possible, which has allowed my students to create narratives and stories around the lives of people who lived in their community well over a hundred years ago. These in-depth projects have allowed students to address historical wrongs here in Putnam County. Finding their own voices and creating this level of professional work has allowed them to believe in themselves more than any traditional classroom teaching methodology ever could.
Everyone likes the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
I like to run and do yoga before breakfast and heading off to work.
What do you tell students who need encouragement?
Often times when I give encouragement to students I choose to use the word of others who are better wordsmiths than myself. I personally find inspiration in the words of Winston Churchill (literally a quote-making machine) such as, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” I also try to let students know that struggles are a part of life, but that to succeed one must persevere. Winston Churchill just said it better than me.
What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
I think humor helps. Again, I also think other’s words are often better than my own. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on,” and I think this is very valuable advice for teachers. People generally need encouragement when they feel the odds are stacked against them; I like to point out that most of us have felt like that throughout the course of history, but that history also proves odds can be overcome.