Dowden leading GNMS on the volleyball court and in the classroom

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The LaGrange Daily News is doing a Q&A with all of the teachers of the year in the Troup County School System. Today we are writing about TeJay Dowden, an English Language Arts teacher at Gardner Newman Middle School. We asked her 20 questions, and we’ve shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Dowden is a sixth through eighth-grade teacher at Gardner Newman Middle School and has worked in education for the last 9.5 years. She has been with the Troup County School System that entire time, including 8.5 years at GNMS.

She has been married to her husband, Josh, for 10 years. They have three children — 4-year-old Caleb; 6-year-old Jo Ann; and 11-year-old Parker. Caleb just started at Rosemont, but Jo Ann was just named the Star Student of the month at RES and Parker plays volleyball at GNMS.

Dowden has coached for 7.5 years, from 2014-2022, and served as the head volleyball coach at GNMS for 4.5 years and the head coach at LaGrange High for two years. She also served as an assistant coach at Troup High for one year.

She currently helps with the GNMS volleyball program.

“My vision is to teach them how to cope with adversity both in the classroom and on the volleyball court in order to develop life skills that will enable them to healthily manage life challenges in the classroom, on the volleyball court, and in their personal lives,” Dowden said.

Here’s more about Dowden:

Q: What inspired you to become an educator? (Or who?)

A: When I first started working in the education field in 2014 at West Point Elementary I was hired as a paraprofessional and worked closely with the resource teacher at that time, Mrs. Robbie Henderson. Her passion, selflessness and enthusiasm for teaching Special Education is what prompted me to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree in teaching.”

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what career field would you be in?

A: I would be in a career field that involves helping young underprivileged children.

Q: What hidden talent do you have that might surprise your students and our


A: “I played volleyball in college, and I was also involved in the 4-H program in

high school where I participated in different horse shows including barrel racing, pole racing, and horse show competitions.”

Q: If your teaching style had a theme song, what would it be?

A: A mixture between the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’ll Be There For You”. Meaning, my students know that I would go through whatever difficult barrier, hurdle, obstacle I needed to in order to help them (with either a school-related problem or a home-related problem). I also do whatever is necessary in order to show my students that they are loved in my classroom, that every day is a fresh start when they walk in my door, and there is no judgment or grudges held.”

Q: What’s the most creative/unique project one of your classes has worked on?

A: “My resource students illustrated and wrote their own children’s book. When the books are finished, I will have them laminated and sent to an elementary school for teachers to read to their PreK-kindergarten students.”

Q: If you could invite any historical figure to speak to your class, who would you choose and why?

A: Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. Frankl’s most famous quote is: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to be able to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

Q: What’s the most

rewarding part about your job?

A: “Getting the opportunity to see my student’s personalities grow and change over time, as well as seeing them happy, excited, comfortable, safe, and at peace while they are in my classroom.”

Q: What’s the most

challenging part of your job?

A: “Recently, I have suffered the losses of two of my former GNMS students; Nasir Truitt, and Montavious Gunn. They were both my students during their years at GNMS, where I was able to form a positive and respectful bond with them. The news of their deaths was immensely painful to myself and several of their other teachers. As a teacher, I find myself naturally caring deeply about my student’s lives both inside and outside of school.”

Q: What’s the most unusual excuse a student has given you for not completing their homework?

A: “I couldn’t do my homework last night because I was abducted by aliens after school and wasn’t returned to my house until midnight”.

Q: What did it mean to you to be named your school’s teacher of the year?

A: “I was extremely surprised and humbled at the news of receiving teacher of the year. The truth is there are SO MANY amazing educators at GNMS that have helped mold and shape me into the teacher that I am today. I could not have gotten to this point of my career without them, and so I attribute this award to all of the great teachers at GNMS, we ALL deserve to be teacher of the year!”

Q: As your students

transition to the next grade or graduate in May, what is one key takeaway you hope they carry forward from their time in your class?

A: Every day is a fresh start, never give up on yourself, and no matter what situation you are in there is always hope.