LaGrange High TOTY loves to see her students smile

Published 9:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

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 Felicia Moneypenny, an exceptional education teacher at LaGrange High School. We asked her 20 questions, and we shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Felicia Moneypenny has been serving the exceptional education population in Troup County for 11 years and is honored to be in her fifth year of teaching at LaGrange High School.

Felicia said she is blessed to have been married to her high school sweetheart, Joshua, for 24 years.  They have two children, Matthew, 22, and Frances, 20. Matthew graduated from LHS, completed his degree in mechanical engineering from KSU this past spring, and recently began working in his field. Frances graduated a year early from LHS and after spending some time working for TCSS and volunteering with the LHS Bridges program, she discovered her passion and is getting ready to pursue her undergraduate degree in special education.

Within the school system, Moneypenny serves as a mentor, assists with providing professional learning, facilitates monthly PLC and planning of annual events within the exceptional education community. This past year, Moneypenny started an annual resource expo for all families in Troup County and she currently facilitates the annual Day of Champions.

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

A: “Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  In college, a course on diversity and equity really resonated with me.  I knew then that I wanted to advocate for not just all students, but particularly those with disabilities. As I began completing practicum hours, I knew this student population was where my heart was leading me.  I am truly honored to do what I do each day and get to call it ‘work.’”

Q: What are your career aspirations?

A: “Last year I completed a special education Administrative Development Academy program through the  Georgia Council of Administrators of Special Education.  This year I am participating in a leadership development program within the school system. I have been accepted for a specialist degree program in Special Education at UWG and plan to expand my knowledge in the field of special education, which will prepare me to continue bridging the gap for individuals with disabilities.  I hope to advance my career and move into a leadership position where I can have a greater impact on these individuals within the school system or our local community.”

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

A: “Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  If I weren’t a teacher though, I probably would have completed a degree in accounting.”

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

A: “Before I began working, I used to decorate cakes.  I loved making them but always hated the clean-up.  I made one years ago for the LSPA’s performers for the Nutcracker.”

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

A: “There are so many, but one of my favorites would be “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.  Teaching is about constantly changing to meet the needs of your students.  As a teacher, we definitely have to do this often by reflecting or “looking in the mirror” and thinking what do my students need, how can I help, what do I need to change, how do I meet them where they are. After all, every day is a fresh start, not just for students.  ‘If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change.’”

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

A: “One of the most creative projects that the students on our team completed was making Christmas trees out of recycled pallets.  This project necessitated reading, math, and vocational skills in the implementation phase.  Students completed each step of this project in teams. They then sold the trees in our school and community in order to raise funds for purchasing additional instructional items for our program.”

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

A: “While not your typical historical figure, I would choose Temple Grandin.  She certainly fits the bill of having a great impact in more recent history.  I feel she is just one example of overcoming adversity and truly demonstrating “where there’s a will there’s a way.”  It is so important for all students to realize we are all unique.  Having a disability doesn’t compromise what you can achieve.  It simply changes how you get there.  If we can teach students to advocate for themselves in the educational and vocational fields, we can break down the barriers that hinder their success.”

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

A: “The most rewarding part of my job is the smile I get to see on the faces of my students as they enter and we all greet each other – we are a family/ Equally rewarding are those “aha” moments when they achieve a skill they have been working so hard to master.  Moments that make your heart skip a beat and give you a smile in the middle of a random day is a sweet message from a student who has graduated and messages to say hi or wish you a good day. Teaching is not just about academics.”

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

A: “The absolute most challenging part of my job is realizing all the needs that individual students have. In addition to academics, students have emotional, behavioral, family and daily living needs.  You want to meet ALL of their needs but there are only so many resources and hours in the day.”

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

A: “When Mr. Bozeman presented the award, I was overwhelmed with emotion and could say very little without becoming emotional. In exceptional education there isn’t anything you do alone, so I feel like I have accepted this honor on behalf of my team.  I have been incredibly blessed to have joined the exceptional education team at LHS.  We are truly like a family. It is equally as heartfelt to know that the rest of our Granger family recognizes what we do every single day.  This award is a true honor among my peers.  I couldn’t imagine teaching anywhere other than LaGrange High.”

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

A: ”I enjoy spending time with my family and fur babies.  One of my favorite activities is to spend an afternoon on the lake.  I also love road trips and shopping.”

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: “I am so lucky that I get to spend multiple years with my students.  The growth you see physically, socially, and academically is really something my heart is most thankful for.  As my students transition to what is ‘next,’ I want them to always remember that I encouraged them to learn, do, and be anything they wanted.  I want them to continue advocating for themselves and never accept anything less than their aspirations.”