Why I Teach: Teacher Appreciation Week 2018

For Teacher Appreciation Week this year, we want to celebrate our educators by sharing the stories of how they came to lead our classrooms – and inspire the next generation to join them there.

From May 7-11, 2018, we will use the #TeachTodayTN campaign to showcase the inspirational stories behind why our teachers chose the education profession and what motivates them to continually serve our students every day. Below are some of the stories we heard from educators across Tennessee that we are pleased to share with you.

Dr. Sandra Dudley

Sandra teaches chemistry at Dickson County High School in Dickson County Schools.

“I teach to give back to the high school that gave me a terrific start to a successful engineering career. I’ve been a licensed professional chemical/environmental engineer for over two decades, and I still manage my engineering consulting firm, but I take great joy in helping high school students in my local community learn chemistry. I’ve done a lot of part-time teaching at universities, and it’s fun to use my masters degree in education to give back to my first alma mater.”

Charlene Schwenk

Charlene is a fourth grade teacher at Frazier Elementary School in Rhea County. This is her 41st year as an educator.

“I teach because an elderly father tells me that I should be a member of his family; I taught all of his children and I am now teaching grandchild number 12. I teach because when I sing in the choir at church, I can count the worshipers who used to sit in my classroom. There is no better place to spend your life, than in a school– molding minds, building brains, and helping to create adults who make your community a much better place.”

Michelle Sutton

Michelle teaches fifth grade at Crosswind Elementary in Collierville Schools.

“This picture right here makes my heart skip a beat. It makes me so proud to be an American and a teacher. Two of my sweet students, the flag, and Mr. Featherston (a veteran) helping them get it all together. This right here is why we teach. We get to dabble momentarily in the lives of our country’s future.”

Paul Gubala

Paul teaches audio/visual production at Walker Valley High School in Shelby County Schools.

“The most satisfying part of my job is when my students can take what they learned in the classroom and apply that knowledge outside the classroom. When you work so diligently in the classroom as facilitator, teaching students and then having them apply themselves in a real-world situation: This is the greatest gift I could receive as a teacher.”

Holly Cross

Holly is a Career and Technical Education supervisor in Oak Ridge Schools.

“Because my love for learning includes hands-on creation as well as academia, I pursued my current position as a CTE supervisor. I find my inspiration from students who are willing to be creative, critical thinkers who take on the challenge we often put forth of being willing to learn, unlearn, and relearn. I see students like this every day from Career Exploration and STEM classes in middle school, all the way through high school students dual enrolled in college courses. Teachers are called to love and inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Their innovative spirit is what continues to drive me. It is why I chose and continue to thrive in the education profession. I have learned that when we allow students to be leaders in their own instruction, they will create the changes we never anticipated, and we all benefit from the learning that ensues.”

Shannon Davis

Shannon is a high school academic coordinator in the Jackson-Madison County School System and formally was a second grade teacher in the district.

“I became teacher because of my grandmother. She told me how passionate I was for helping/teaching others. I always said I didn’t think I would be a great person to teach because I wasn’t sure the students would understand what I was trying to teach. She then told me that’s what college is for. After a year of teaching I understood what my grandmother said all those years ago! I do love helping and teaching others and now I love it more than ever! I get to see others become super learners all because they had a teacher that cared, like me!”

Rachel Boals

Rachel teaches fifth grade English language arts at North Middle School in the Loudon County School District.

“I teach because each person, big or small, that I have responsibility for is a possibility. I have had the privilege to witness young students I taught grow to be a doctor, an Airman, a teacher, a farmer, a Seaman, a designer, a nurse, a mechanic, and other integral members of society. I have been able to see my students as parents, proud of their babies and working hard to provide for them. It’s exciting to observe possibility become wonderful reality, and I hope that maybe I was, and am, a tiny spark that works with other things to grow passion, knowledge, and a sense of self-worth into each life that crosses my path.”

Drew Norman

Drew teaches AP U.S. History at Columbia Central High School in Maury County Schools.

“As a history teacher, it’s especially fun as I get to see numerous “Ah ha!” moments, as they realize how much everything we have learned affects their lives today. What I love most, however, is the relationships I have developed with them over the years. It is the shared laughs and stories, not the lessons, that keep me coming back year after year!”

Erin Rains

Erin teaches English language arts at Walker Valley High School in the Bradley County school system and has been an educator since 2004.

“Anyone who suggests that relationships don’t matter or aren’t a major factor in student success is welcome to come talk to me, and we can talk about the hundreds of students I’ve taught in the 14 years of my career thus far. Education is so important and relationships are the difference makers, the equalizers; they will last forever, long after all the lessons and activities are forgotten. I get to foster and build relationships every day for a living. That’s why I teach.”