Dear First Year Teacher

During this time of the year, when everyone is getting back into the swing of school and learning, so much is shiny and new. From freshly sharpened pencils to newly waxed floors, the beginning of school year is a fresh start in so many ways.

For one group of teachers, the start of this school year is chock full of new beginnings. Many of Tennessee’s teachers are just beginning their careers, stepping into their classrooms – and kids’ lives – for the very first time. For them, everything is new, and it can be a time of excitement, anticipation, and a lot of uncertainty.

So, we asked our 2018-19 Tennessee Teacher of the Year finalists to help! These nine teachers, who teach everything from kindergarten to high school, kindly agreed to share their words of wisdom and advice for all of our first year teachers. Here’s what they had to say.

Dear First Year Teacher,

“You won’t know everything, and that is okay. You will evolve and grow. Try not to stress, and enjoy the journey!” –Carlin McGlown, 7th grade ELA, Munford Middle School, Tipton County

“Be flexible and understanding with your time, have enough planned to teach from bell to bell, and be patient with your students. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly. Be the teacher you would want to have as a student, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes.” –Michael Robinson, high school social studies, Houston High School, Germantown Municipal School District

“Take advantage of every opportunity to build genuine, positive relationships with their students and colleagues. This will start paving the way for optimizing student engagement and motivation, which greatly influences their approach toward learning. While it can certainly feel overwhelming at the start of this profession, your fellow colleagues will be able to offer support wherever needed.” –Bryan Schultz, high school science, L&N STEM Academy, Knox County Schools

“Always remember your ‘why,’ as in why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place, when you start to feel overwhelmed! You will surely start the new school full of excitement and anticipation for a great year. It won’t be unusual once you settle into a routine of lesson planning, teaching, parent meetings, school activities, etc. to begin to feel swamped…we all do! That’s when you need to pause for a bit and take some time for yourself. Recapture that passion for teaching you had at the beginning of the year by recalling exactly why you wanted to be a teacher. You’ll feel energized, soon feel more settled, and ready to finish strong!” –Amy Whaley, CTE, Morristown-Hamblen High School, Hamblen County

“Love your students! Each one is an individual with individual gifts and challenges. Get to know what motivates each one, because each one is unique. Listen, really listen, to your students. Know the names of their siblings, favorite sports, favorite authors, pets, etc. These are your children not just for the next 10 months, but for life. Make each day count. There is truly no measure to your influence. When the bell rings, all other things that have happened melt away. Each day is a new day with endless possibilities. Greet each student with a smile and a personal message. When they know you know them and love them, they will move mountains for you!” –Melissa Miller, 1st grade, Franklin Elementary, Franklin Special School District

“Slow down, enjoy the students, and get all the advice you can from your mentor teacher. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness because there is no way you can know about everything, so ask away!” -Susan Reeder, 3rd grade, Union Heights Elementary School, Smith County Schools

“Have confidence in your education; you can do this! Put your best practices into action in your classroom, but don’t overlook your most valuable resource, and that is the experience of your fellow teachers. Asking questions does not make you appear weak or unprepared. Their knowledge of the students, classroom management, lesson planning, and practices that really work will make your life and the lives of your students much happier!” – Valerie Godina, middle school science, Henry Elementary School, Henry County

“You are going to have an amazing year changing lives!! Don’t let comparison steal your joy, give yourself some grace, have fun, and focus on what’s most important…the students!! Your influence is powerful! Enjoy this first year!” –Lori Farley, media specialist, North City Elementary, Athens City Schools

“Always remember you chose to be an educator to make as much of a difference in students’ lives as the teacher who made a difference in yours. Enjoy every day preparing the future leaders of Tennessee.” –Michael Franklin, HS Spanish, Franklin County High School, Franklin County Schools


For all of Tennessee’s first year teachers, we wish you many days of joy and learning in your classrooms!