Last in a series.
The Troup County School System Teachers of the Year were asked to write about their favorite teaching moment from this year. The following are the high school teachers, listed in alphabetical order by teacher’s last name.
Peter Anderson, Troup High School:
” Possibly the most exciting and gratifying feeling for a teacher occurs when learning takes on a life of its own. I was able to witness this phenomenon earlier this year with a group of students who have regularly struggled with mathematics. We were studying quadratics – if you aren’t familiar with quadratics, it can be a very boring topic with a reputation for being difficult – to make quadratics more applicable, we played basketball. I drew a hoop on the board and had a defender guard it. Trying to map the flight of the ball, over a defender and through the hoop, the students began to come up with their own quadratic equations. They discussed and debated. Initially the equations didn’t work. But the students got better. Their focus on the solution lead to lively discussions on how to move, stretch and bend the equations so that they worked. Two other teachers and a couple of administrators were invited to the classroom to participate. Seeing this collaboration and engagement was special, but what made this moment my favorite was when one of my more reticent students disagreed with an assistant principal, sticking to his math and having pride in his work. The student was right! He had success in a class where he rarely sees success. A difficult concept mastered. A basket scored. Witnessing this learning take off and grow was easily my favorite moment of this past year.”
Donna Bennevendo, Callaway High School:
“During the second month of school, I thought I had gotten to know my students pretty well. One day, I had completed a lesson, and the students had been working on an assignment. I had checked off most of their work, but one of the students (let’s just call her Susie) had not come to show me her assignment yet. I asked her to come show me her work. At first she did not respond. I asked again. She then responded with a very rude comment that could have ended in a referral. In the past, I might have just written the referral, but I paused, looked up, and made eye contact with another student. She whispered to me, “She just doesn’t understand the math.” I then called Susie to my desk and told her I needed to speak with her. I asked her if she was upset, because she was confused. She said, “Yes.” After the bell rang, Susie explained what had confused her. I took an extra 5 minutes to clear up her questions. She immediately relaxed, and from that moment Susie became a different student in my class. She realized I cared about her and how she learned in my class. I truly believe those 5 minutes made a difference in a child’s life that day. I also learned a huge lesson: to take a moment, pause, and think about why a child might be reacting a certain way. Susie just needed math help.”
Aiden Blackwell, LaGrange High School:
“Teaching AP Government and AP United States History is a hard task. As the teacher, I must be rigorous and demanding on my students to better prepare them for the exam in May, especially on the sophomores in AP United States History. Due to this, my favorite teaching moment has not happened yet; it will happen in May. In May my students will take the AP exams, and when that happens the students will finally realize why I was so hard on them all year.
Every year on the day of the AP exam, my students always come back and talk about how they think they did. There is one moment in my teaching career that stands out above all the others. In May of 2011, my students came back from taking their APUSH exam. This was the first year in which sophomores were allowed to take APUSH; previously there had been a prerequisite that a student must have taken and passed regular US History before taking the AP course; In 2010 that prerequisite was lifted. I had watched the sophomores struggle all year with the heavy work load of the APUSH course. My students and I met at the school on 4:30 AM the morning of the exam to get some review in before they went to the testing area. Around two o’clock the students started arriving back at school and all came to my classroom. The excitement in their voices and the joy that they showed is the best moment in my teaching career. I sat at my desk as the students talked to each other, checking each other’s answers with their own to see if they chose the same thing. A few days later the students were still talking about the exam. I remember sitting in a circle in my room with the students, as each of them talked about their DBQ; the students were discussing the differences with which they interpreted their documents. I was blown away! I had watched these students struggle and fight all year, and the growth they made from day one in class to this moment was overwhelming. A few short months ago these same students did not know what DBQ stood for, let alone how to interpret a document, and now they were arguing over whose interpretation was better! This was the greatest moment in my teaching career.”
Clint Robinson, Callaway High School:
“Early this year I witnessed several students going out of their way to assist a newly enrolled special needs student. This new student had a hard time adjusting to the big class size, the expectations and the open environment, which resulted in that student crying and not getting their work done. Seeing the struggles this student was having, four other students in the classroom approached her, befriended her and assisted her in getting comfortable with the class size, the subject matter and the expectations of working on their own. This act of good will resulted in the students being recognized for their efforts with support form the faculty and administration through starting a new award program that recognizes good citizenship.”
Leah Selbie, LaGrange High School:
“Encountering students outside of the classroom is one of my favorite parts of being a teacher. As a teacher in a small community, I often see former and current students in public places. Sometimes this happens while they are at work and occasionally it is just a casual encounter while I am running errands. I am always overjoyed to see how former students have grown since they were in my classroom. Many of these students have become impressive young adults and I am confident that they will continue to grow and be very successful. Anytime I run into my current students, I am able to gain a little more perspective into their lives away from the school setting, which helps me learn more about them. It is difficult for me to pinpoint a favorite moment, but when I bump into students outside of school, I am always reminded that teachers play an important role in shaping a child’s future and that we really can make a difference.”
J. Nichelle Wimbus, Troup High School:
“‘To whom much is given much is required.’
As a teacher I am of the belief that I have been given the world and it is my job to give each of my students the gift that has been given to me. To some that may sound crazy because every day I interact with more than one-hundred twenty teenagers, but in my eyes, what I do each day is a true blessing.
It is hard to point out the most memorable moment from this year because I have so many of those moments with all of my students. But, if I had to choose one, it would be the moment that my students received their benchmark scores. The look in their eyes gave me so much gratification because it was a look of validation and trust. It was a look that said “I did it” and “I understand”. Biology is a difficult class and I have very high expectations for my students, but when they experience their first big triumph it makes all of the late nights, tutoring sessions, and gray hairs worth it. It reminds me that my career choice aligns perfectly with my purpose and there is nothing else in this world I would rather do.”