TOTY Darla Clark loves to help kids read and act

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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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 Darla Clark, a first-grade teacher at the Berta Weathersbee Elementary. We asked her 20 questions, and we shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Darla Clark is in her 37th year of teaching. She began teaching in the Troup County School System since 2017 at Berta Weathersbee.

Darla and her husband, Charles Clark, have been married for 35 years. They have two daughters, Grace Harry and Kamren Gatens who both live in LaGrange and have children in TCSS. Grace has taught at Callaway Elementary and Berta Weathersbee Elementary but currently works for Urgencare in LaGrange. Kamren Gatens, finished her degree in Biology/Chemistry at LaGrange College and also works at Urgencare. Her stepson Charles C. Clark, IV, lives in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he works for the Jackson County Road Department.

Clark is the chair Berta Drama Club, which she said is rewarding.

“I love seeing the personalities of our students come alive when we are preparing for a performance. I get to see a side of them that we don’t always see in the classroom,” she said.

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

A: “My main involvement has been with my students at Berta. I am a member of the Guided Coalition Team and PBIS Team. I have volunteered for our Literacy on the Lawn, sponsored by Communities in School for Georgia, where I was a guest reader. I also organize our Literacy Night at Berta, to help inspire families to incorporate literacy into activities at the home.  I have been over our Literacy Night for the past four years. I have also organized math and science night for our families in the past.”

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

A: “I am not from a family of educators and education was not my first choice. I majored in music for my first year of college and realized it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was so unsure of myself  and had to take a hard look at what I wanted to achieve in life. I reflected back on the summer before I left for college where I had a job at a daycare. It was the most exciting and rewarding thing working with children. That summer I helped them with reading and math,  played games, went swimming, and many more activities. I realized that was something I enjoyed and I seemed to be pretty good at or that’s what I thought. So I decided to give education a try and I found out that it was my calling and I truly believe God led me to this profession.”

Q: What are your career aspirations?

A: “I have been teaching for almost 37 years. My career aspirations are simple. I want to make a mark on my students. I want my students to know they are loved, that they are important, and that they can do anything they set their mind to.”

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

A: “If I weren’t a teacher, I would probably be a studio singer in Nashville or maybe even famous by now. Ha! I come from a musical family and my dad was a recording artist at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee during the 50s, so I have been on a stage my whole life.”

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

A: My hidden talent would probably be singing because I don’t do it or say too much about it.

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

A: “Hello Dolly would be my theme song. There is a line from the song that is straight from my life because I retired from teaching in Arkansas and came right back to education.”

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

A: “One of the most creative projects one of my classes has ever worked on is a life size igloo. While teaching kindergarten in Arkansas, we were learning about the Arctic animals, and Inuit people, students brought in gallon milk jugs and we glued them together to make an igloo and the students got to use it the whole month of January as a reading center. They were so excited and loved it.”

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

A: “The most rewarding part of my job is that Aha moment when my students realize they have grasped what you have been teaching.”

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

A: “The most challenging part of my job is the hurdles or obstacles that my students face outside of the classroom. These are usually things that are out of my control, but we are left to handle or cope with to allow students to be successful in the classroom.”

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

A: “I have taught mostly kindergarten and first grade, so homework is not as prevalent as other grades but one time I had a parent send a note saying their child could not do their homework because they were constipated.”

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

A: “To be chosen by my peers at Berta  and know that they feel I have made a difference in the lives of students at Berta is truly humbling.”

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

A: “I love spending time with my daughters and grandchildren on the weekends. During the summer, I love to vacation with my family.”

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: “When students leave my classroom at the end of the year, I hope they will continue to use their own strengths to conquer any tasks they may face.”