FFE teacher of year, Mines, an advocate for her special education students

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, December 27, 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 Sharon Mines, a K-5 self-contained special eduaction teacher at Franklin Forest Elementary School. We asked 20 questions, and we’ve shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Sharon Mines is in her 14th year teaching, with nine of those being at the Troup County School System. She’s been at Franklin Forest Elementary School for two years.

Mines has been married to her husband, Will, for 11 years. The couple has two daughters — Molly Kate (fifth grade) and Claire (second grade), both who attend FFE.

At FFE, she leads an organization known as STAR Buddies, a program of fourth and fifth grade general education students that serve as peer buddies to the students in her self-contained special education classroom. “The acronym STAR is used when training the buddies to remind them to Stay close to their buddy, Talk with their buddy, Assist their buddy when needed, and Reward their buddy with praise,” Mines said. “It is rewarding to watch the students and their buddies bond, build a true friendship and learn from each other. The program builds inclusion throughout the building as the buddies join their friends in the classroom, lunchroom, playground and on field trips. It is even more special when you see that the friendships carry over into their lives outside of the school, and they attend each other’s athletic events and birthday parties.”

Q:   What community activities are you involved in, even outside of the school system? How long have you been involved in that activity?

A: For the past two seasons, I’ve been a Miracle League Baseball coach here in LaGrange. I have enjoyed helping students with a variety of abilities learn to play baseball and build positive relationships. My husband coaches with me and our daughters are “buddies” on the field. We all agree that it is truly the best way to spend a Saturday morning!

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

A: Growing up, I always resisted the idea of becoming a teacher. My family is full of educators, and I thought I wanted to do something different. I pursued nursing at the beginning of my time in college with the intent to work at a children’s hospital.  As it became time to declare a major and get serious about my future, I realized that I actually longed to be a teacher just like most of my family members. My fear of needles had a bit of an impact too! I’m so very thankful that I grew up in a family full of great examples of what it means to be an educator! I even married into a family of educators too!

Q:   What are your career aspirations?

A: It is no secret that I love change and new opportunities. I taught kindergarten through second grade for many years before I became a special education resource teacher. I loved the role of getting to work with students that need a little extra help. When given the opportunity to move into a self-contained special education position, I was excited to experience the best of both of my previous roles. I now have a homeroom of sweet students that need a little extra help in a variety of ways. I know each day that I am impacting their lives, and they are definitely enriching mine. I can’t imagine a better job than this!

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

A: I hope one day that I will be able to combine my career dreams and become an educator for the patients at a children’s hospital.

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

A: Every year at Christmas time my students run a project known as “From the Hearts and Hands of 405.” The students make and sell Christmas ornaments to earn money and shop for their family’s Christmas presents. They take orders, assist in making the ornaments, package the items and deliver them to the purchaser. The students then head out into the community to shop for small gifts for their families. The students learn how to earn money, produce and deliver items, and experience the joy of giving to others.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part about your job?

A: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing inclusion expand in my school. Whether on the playground or lunchroom or even in the hallways, we always have students and teachers reaching out, lending a hand or just visiting with our class.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

A: The most challenging part of my job is when I feel like a student is not showing adequate growth. Students progress at different rates and sometimes educators need a reminder that slow and steady can win the race also. It’s a time that I need my coworkers and administrators the most. Knowing that I can get them around a table to brainstorm a better plan is the best reassurance when the doubt and worry creep in.

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

Honestly, being selected as teacher of the year at Franklin Forest left me speechless. I came to Franklin Forest in August of 2022, and I have been in awe of this staff since I walked in the doors. They literally do whatever it takes to reach every child.  I joined the staff with the addition of the first self-contained class at Franklin Forest. The entire staff has embraced me and my crew without hesitation. To know that they chose me for this honor is the best compliment that I could be given. I am grateful to be able to say that I am a teacher at Franklin Forest.

Q: On a weekend or a summer day when school is out, what are your favorite activities?

A: I love to be outside! I enjoy frequent beach trips, spending days by the pool or on the lake, and watching my daughters play softball.

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

A: I’m very fortunate that I get to keep my students for their elementary school years. I hope that their time in my classroom helps them become independent and successful as they enter middle school. Most of all I hope that they leave me knowing they are loved and that I’m always their advocate!