Sheffield teaches, coaches and serves as athletic director for Gardner Newman

Published 9:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

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 Chontia Sheffield, a teacher and coach at Gardner Newman Elementary School. We asked her 20 questions, and we shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Sheffield has worked in education since 2012 and with the Troup County School System since 2014 at Gardner Newman. She currently works as a Gardner Newman Health and PE Teacher, Athletic Director, GNMS Cross-Country Head Coach and LHS & GNMS Head Girls Track Coach.

Chontia and her husband, Cameron Sheffield, have been married for 11 years and they have three daughters, Corley, 10; Callen, 7; and CheyAnna, 2.

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

A: “There were several moments in my life that inspired me to become an educator. At each stage of my life, there were people that stood out to me that I aspired to be like. I always heard my mother talk about her wanting to be a teacher but her career path changed due to different circumstances. Although my parents both had associate degrees they made sure I was surrounded by women who were influential, educated, and had my best interest at heart.”

“My Aunt Ann Wallace, Jackie Jackson, and Zelma Brock were educators in the TCSS who showed me that education can be a lucrative career. It was conversations about the benefits of changing our future generations’ lives and how to make my career path work for my finances. They encouraged me to get multiple degrees to increase my content knowledge while accessing another step in pay.”

“As I became older my high school coaches sealed the deal that I knew I wanted to be in education. These coaches truly changed my life and pulled out a version of myself that I did not know was there. The growth that was attained by being on their teams showed me that I wanted to be just as influential to my athlete’s and student’s lives. Through their  caring, assertive, and honest leadership style, I officially knew that coaching would be my career focus.”

“[My] first HS coach was Stacey Brown. He was the track coach and I went to one practice and tried to quit. Coach Brown saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He refused to allow me to quit and I reluctantly came back to the team. During my time with Coach Brown, I  eventually started seeing and feeling what he spoke over me. Fast forward to my Senior year, I signed a scholarship to compete as a Division I athlete at Troy University. Within the same years, I meet Coach Faye Benjamin. She was my PE teacher and Basketball coach. She was such an amazing teacher and supporter, and she gave the best advice/guidance. I appreciated all the wisdom she passed to me and she even welcomed me into GNMS showing me the ropes as I took over her position after she retired from GNMS.”

Q: What are your career aspirations?

A: “This school year, I accomplished one of my biggest goals in my career: becoming an Athletic Director.  With this leadership role, I plan to continue planning events and activities that will progress our athletic programs forward. This year I implemented the first ‘Free Physical Day’ for middle school students who aspired to be athletes at GNMS. Several students cannot attend tryouts because they do not have physicals so that alleviated one extra step for the parents that would have to take to get their students into athletics at GNMS. We also host seasonal socials where we show our athletes’ appreciation for their time and commitment to our athletics. I plan to continue to find ways to build relationships with our students in the building and encourage them to try sports. 

“I am completing my Specialist in Coaching Pedagogy in Physical Education from Valdosta State University.”

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

A: “I have been around sports my entire life, so it would be hard to imagine my life without that setting. If I weren’t a Physical Education Teacher, I would have sought a career related to sports management, Recreational management, or coaching at the collegiate level.”

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

A: “This hidden talent is a hit and a miss but depending on the song, I can really sing. The best moments happen in the shower but on a good karaoke night I can blow.”

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

A: “On Most Days, I would say ‘Superwoman’ by Alicia Keys because I wear many hats and strive to thrive in every area of my life. It’s a bit embarrassing, but honestly enough, now and then, my theme song is the clean version of ‘Set it Off’ by Boosie for apparent reasons, I teach middle school.”

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

A: “In my 6th-grade health classes, I challenge my students to think about their future. In the last assignment of this class, students are asked to create a life plan. I challenge them to think of their careers and plans for their lives. Some of these students have it all planned out, while others are given a chance to think about their future goals. This project includes their plan for after they graduate high school, whether college is their plan, salary for their careers, the location they want to live in, house, car, and family goals.”

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

A: “I would pick a woman who changed sports history, Wilma Rudolph. She would be picked due to the obstacles she faced throughout her life as well as being the first of many accomplishments. As a child, she was told she would never walk again but later became the fastest woman in the world. She used her title to shed light on several social issues.”

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

A: “The most rewarding part of my job is the ability to build relationships with my students.  Being a PE teacher, I teach (or co-teach) every student in the building at some point throughout the school year. We get to see them in a challenging yet social environment that allows encouragement, obstacles, as well as accomplishments. We challenge our students to try new things by not giving them the option to give up or quit.”

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

A: “It means so much to me to be named my school’s teacher of the year. I have worked at GNMS since 2014, giving GNMS my all each year as I truly LOVE being at GNMS. I have always been shown and told I was valued and appreciated, but this year, it came with a title and a promotion. I am so thankful for my co-workers and administrators, who have been incredibly supportive throughout my year at GNMS.”