Education Couples

(Above) Colton and Hannah Stephens

 

 

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

– Albert Einstein

 

These area couples have not only dedicated themselves to each other in marriage, but also to the generations of tomorrow as educators. Inspired to help our youth grow and flourish, their commitment to mentorship is moving. Whether they’re early in their careers or seasoned vets, they all have a story to tell. Here’s what they’ve learned and why they do it.

By Lucy Morris  |  Photography by Emily Long

 

 

Aseneth & Bradley Scott

 


Education Couple, Aseneth and Bradely Scott

 

Aseneth Garza Scott

Position/School: 7th grade World History Teacher at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy

Years of Service: 6

CS: Why do you teach/serve?

AS: I had wonderful educators and mentors that believed in me and knew how to challenge me, which led me to want to do the same for my students. Coming from a low socioeconomic background and as the child of Mexican immigrants, I knew that education would improve my quality of life and could help me make a difference in others’ lives. Going from the housing projects to Princeton University was an amazing opportunity for me. The opportunities in life I have had stem from my education, and I want more children to see their potential and pursue their goals.

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

AS: I have learned that it is possible to make an impact on children’s lives through education even though it may not feel like it at times when you are bogged down by testing requirements and get the sense that you are undervalued as an educator in schools and in society at large. It is a tough job with many unpaid hours, and many have the wrong assumptions about it.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

AS: Being a mentor to our youth is a tremendous responsibility that entails living up to the expectations you try to instill on your mentees. If you want to show them that being honest and fair matters, you should be honest yourself and show those qualities to them.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

AS: I felt I was making an impact when I received emails this past summer from my students in Texas that stated they had made significant gains in their writing skills and felt more confident. Some told me they learned resilience and discovered a love for writing. One student thanked me for being a caring person when she was going through a hard time. Getting these emails showed me that I was making a difference when I did not know that I was in real time.

 

Bradley Scott

Position/School: Head of School at Chattanooga Preparatory School

Years of Service: 12

CS: Why do you teach/serve?

BS: Growing up in Chattanooga, teachers and coaches played a huge role in who I am today. I would have never been the first person in my family to attend and graduate college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Columbia University in New York had it not been for them. My two years with Teach for America in South Texas as a teacher and basketball coach helped me realize the lifelong impact I could have on youth through education. Just as educators inspired me growing up, I want to do the same for youth in our community.

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

BS: The impact of an educator on a child can last a lifetime. The most challenging students are the best opportunities to make a positive lifetime impact. This has taught me not to give up on children because all can achieve excellence in education if they are given the chance and the motivation. Rigorous instruction, high expectations, and the belief that all kids can succeed is what all kids in the United States deserve no matter what their zip code is.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

BS: Mentoring our youth can have generational impacts on lives and our community. Kids need positive examples in our community to look up to, talk to, and be encouraged by.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

BS: Yes. Hugo Cepeda, a former student of mine wrote to me two years ago and said he chose to be a teacher because of the impact I had on him his senior year of high school at IDEA Quest College Prep. Seeing Hugo and other classmates of his graduate high school and go to college made me realize that education was my why in life. I believe every day, even now at Chattanooga Prep, my service is to impact every scholar who walks through our door so they too can graduate and become productive citizens in our community.

 

 

 

 

Emeri & Monica Gordon

 


Education Couple, Emeri and Monica Gordon

 

Emeri Gordon

Position/School: Dean of Students at Brown Middle School

Years of Service: 14

CS: Why do you teach/serve?

EG: I became a teacher because I knew I was given the talent and skills to make connections with kids. I love helping students realize that learning can lead to a more productive and successful life. I want to empower students to think for themselves and to discover in positive ways who they want to become. It’s satisfying to lead students and teachers to high achievements and academic growth. I serve and educate for the love of learning and to help students become college and career ready.

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

EG: Students have greater opportunities to be successful in life when they are educated. I know that all students can learn when great teachers are leading them. Communities thrive better in a more educated society. It is powerful and impactful when I tell and show students I love and care about them. When led by intentional daily engagement, students learn more and are willing to take greater ownership in their learning. Positive teacher and student relationships help change the trajectory of students’ learning.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

EG: God has entrusted me to lead our young people to become productive adults. I have an awesome responsibility to help guide our youth to be thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders. As an educator, I teach students how to advocate for themselves and to improve their socioeconomic outlook on life.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

EG: These moments happen daily. When I observe our students using academic talk and are engaged in high level discourse, that’s confirmation I’m in the right field. Teachers engaged in collaborative talk discussing best practices to help students. It isn’t just the data that shows my students successfully achieved mastery or excellent academic growth scores, but the moments students are vulnerable and choose to trust me with various aspects of their life experiences. Students know I see them as human beings and I care about their well-being. This impact happens because of the intentional professional relationships I foster with our students.

 

 

Monica Gordon

Position/School: Middle School Principal at Tyner Middle Academy

Years of Service: 22

CS: Why do you teach/serve?

MG: I chose teaching because I wanted the opportunity to play the role that my “sheroes” played for me when I was a student in school. I wanted to grow up to be just like the teachers that I had in school that never gave up on me when I was a difficult student. My teachers saw something in me that I never saw. I teach because I wanted to continue the legacy of the great educators before me. Students today deserve to have the same care and attention from their teachers. I wanted to be that person for them and their families.

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

MG: Adults have so much control over whether they build a child or destroy. Your words and actions are stronger than you think. Your words and actions could help determine a student’s outcome in the future. It could be something small that is said or done that could completely change the trajectory of a child’s life. They listen when you think they’re not listening. They are watching when you think they’re not watching. Teachers are powerful because students spend so much time with them every day for most of their awake time.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

MG: Being a mentor to our youth means you have to be prepared to love permanently. I needed my students to feel like their teacher genuinely cared about them not just in the classroom but outside of school. I wanted my students to know that when I taught them, I was preparing them for their next steps. I believe in strong relationships with families. If you can convince a student that you care and truly mean it, the student will work harder for you.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

MG: I’ve had many moments, from my first hug from one of my second graders at the beginning of my career in HCDE over two decades ago to those same children who are now adults with their own children coming back to visit me as recently as last month. I certainly did not choose teaching because I wanted to make exuberant amounts of money, I chose teaching because I am service oriented and love making a difference. This is a hard job that I look forward to doing daily. I am thankful for the opportunity.

 

 

 

 

Chris & Joli Brown

 


Education Couple, Chris and Joli Brown

 

Chris M. Brown

Position/School: Honors English II Teacher & Head Football Coach at Red Bank High School

Years of Service: 11

CS: Why do you teach?

CB: I have chosen the teaching and coaching profession because I feel like that is how I can do the most good with the time that I have been given on Earth. Helping kids realize and achieve their potential drives nearly every professional decision I make.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

CB: Teaching has taught me that every single student lives with circumstances that affect his/her emotions and rationale, no matter the perceived background. We have to be flexible, empathetic, and consistent to truly connect with them.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

CB: Being a mentor is a huge responsibility for our future generation. Now more than ever, our kids need guidance when making decisions that sculpt who they become as adults. This weight gives me purpose and a reason to be the version of myself I can be each day for them.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

CB: I wouldn’t say that I have had a singular moment of clarity, but a collection of after-the-fact relationships that have shown me I’m having a positive impact. Former students and players have reached out to me and shown appreciation for the lessons I taught in the classroom and on the field. Ultimately, my success will lie in what kind of grown men and women my students and players become.

 

 

Joli Brown

Position/School: Instructional Coach at Ooltewah Middle School

Years of Service: 9

CS: Why do you teach?

JB: Teaching is something that I have wanted to do since I was young. I always knew I wanted to work with kids to make their lives better and help them discover that each action is a choice. It is my goal to help them make the right choices, take their education seriously, and be ready for high school and beyond.   

CS: What has teaching taught you?

JB: Teaching has taught me to always be reflective, flexible, and willing to grow as both a person and a teacher. Each year I learn and grow so much from the students that I teach. They have reinforced for me that everyone has the ability to be improve at anything they set their mind to. As an educator, it is my job to help students cultivate their growth mindset and become the best version of themselves.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

JB: For many students, school is a chance to grow beyond their circumstances at home. Teaching has reinforced that having one-on-one conversations can go so far to motivate and identify issues that you can truly help students with. Some of the students that grew the most for me where the ones who entered my classroom hating my content area; however, the conversations we had to help correct their misconceptions and the self-confidence they gained really had an impact on them persevering and growing in that area.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

JB: Every time a student has an “aha” moment or you see tremendous growth academically or in maturity reminds me that I made the right career choice. Now that I am in a different role (outside of the classroom), I have enjoyed having discussions and giving strategies to teachers that impact students through their teaching. In the end, we are all one tribe with the same goal … impacting students by providing a great education in a safe, encouraging environment.

 

 

 

Becky & Joshua Light

 


Education Couple, Becky and Joshua Light

 

Becky Light

Position/School: Library Media Specialist at Notre Dame High School

Years of Service: 13

CS: Why do you teach/serve?

BL: I love teaching at Notre Dame because we focus on teaching students skills that prepare them for lifelong success. It’s not about what grade they receive at the end of the year or on a particular test, but it’s about their growth. I hope that I can convey to students that you get out of education and life what you put into in it. Every day is a new opportunity to help students realize their potential and encourage them to work hard and do their best, not just enough to get by. Being the librarian allows me the unique opportunity to get to know all students in the school. I love teaching students how to navigate/find information, use technology, as well as be the person who can recommend the perfect book. I strive to make the library a positive place where students feel welcome. I want it to be a place that has something for everyone, whether it is academic resources, current novels, a comfy chair to read and relax, or fun and creative activities.

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

BL: After teaching for 13 years in three systems, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where students are from, their economic status, ethnicity, or whether they go to public or private schools … kids will be kids. I feel that society expects students to not make mistakes when most of us learn more from our mistakes than we will ever learn from our successes. We expect them to be mature, and we often compare them to how we ‘think’ we behaved when we were their age. We have all been in their shoes, and they still need the same encouragement, discipline, and love that we received from our teachers. I’ve also realized that this means teaching the whole student. Academics are important, but it’s just as important to teach them to be a kind, generous, and loving human beings.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

BL: Being a mentor to youth comes with great rewards, but also with great responsibility. It’s amazing and gratifying to see students succeed, realize that hard work pays off, grow from freshman to senior year, and have the “light bulb” moment. I also keep in the forefront of my mind that I am also being watched closely by each of them. They watch how I react, what I do, and they pay attention to what is done and not done. My actions are instructing them even when I’m not formally teaching. It is with this that we truly realize that our actions always speak louder than our words.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

BL: While teaching elementary school, there was a student who came from a troubled home. He had severe behavior problems and was often in the office at a desk working alone. When I didn’t have class, I requested that he be allowed to come to the library with me and read. Based on his reactions, it was clear this wasn’t a frequent occurrence at home. He was nervous, fidgety, and very quiet. As the school year went on, he began to open up and read to me. I’ll never know if our reading together made an impact on his life; however, he showed me that sometimes a student needs individual, positive attention to show them that adults do care. I want to help them be successful and realize that they are capable of far more than they give themselves credit for.

 

 

Joshua Light

Position/School: Director of Bands at Soddy Daisy High School

Years of Service: 18

CS: Why do you teach/serve? 

JL: Of all the activities I was a part of in school, none of them influenced me as much as my high school band program. It gave me opportunities to be a leader, taught me to express myself through music, and granted me life experiences that no other class in school could. Band class was the one class that I looked forward to going to every day, and I quickly found that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to teach students to love music and band as much as I did, to have them be able to experience things they wouldn’t have the opportunity to outside of the band program, and to have them always strive for excellence.   

CS: What have you learned from your career in education?

JL: I have learned that education is much more than sitting in a classroom and teaching a student a new skill, subject, or idea. I have learned that you must love each kid like they were your own, because sometimes you have more interaction with them than their parents. Every student who wants to learn can, but they must want to do so, and not all students want to do that. I also found that my students seem to do better when they know the reasoning behind why I do something a certain way. It makes them feel like they are more in control of their learning. 

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth? 

JL: I love it when I student comes back and says that I was a mentor to them, or when a parent contacts me and asks me to talk to their child for them because “they listen to you and every piece of advice you give them, and they take it to heart and act as if it is made of solid gold.” Being able to be a positive influence on a student and have them regard you as someone they look up to is truly a privilege that doesn’t occur in all careers or job opportunities.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact? 

JL: When students come back and say they learned more from my class or my teaching that has impacted their life positively than in any other class, it makes me feel like I have made a difference in the lives of my students. I am proud that so many of my former students have gone on to become not only music educators, but educators in general. I feel very blessed and honored to know that I have built a legacy through my students and their love for music and for learning in my program! 

 

 

Taryn & Stephen Humphries

 


Education Couple, Taryn and Stephen Humphries

 

Taryn Humphries

Position/School: High School English Teacher at Silverdale Baptist Academy

Years of Service: 9

CS: Why do you teach?

TH: I teach because it’s my calling. I can’t imagine being in another profession. I get to spend all day with teenagers who are insightful, hilarious, curious, loving, and independent, while teaching them about literature, language, and the Lord. It’s the absolute best job.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

TH: So much! I’ve learned lessons about people and how to interact with them. I’ve learned that students can see right through a façade, so it’s better to be genuine and up front with them. They don’t expect perfection, but they do expect authenticity. I’ve learned that a little encouragement can generally go much further than twice the amount of criticism. I’ve learned that having excellent colleagues to work with makes the weight of education so much easier to bear. I’ve learned that having a spouse who is also in education is such a rare blessing, because he gets it.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

TH: It’s a heavy responsibility, for sure, but it is also a tremendous blessing. Mentoring them is a balance between having high expectations for them and holding them accountable to those expectations, while also showing them love, grace, and compassion when needed. Of course, my academic aim is that my students rise to the standard set in my classroom. I always tell them that my goal is for them to get to college and feel confident in their abilities. But more than that, I want my students to know that I love them, that I want what’s best for them, and that I am here to listen/support them. My kiddos know that my love for them extends beyond the classroom, whether it’s cheering them on at an athletic event, laughing at all their funny lines in the play, outdressing them for Homecoming, or staying after school to give advice about college or relationships. I remember when I was a teenager, I was so thankful to have other adults in my life pouring into me, investing their time and attention in my life to teach me truth and support me as I made my way to adulthood. I hope to give some of that back to my students.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

TH: Every year, I have sweet little nuggets who come back to visit and check in. In those moments, some of them tell me about their college English classes and how well they’re doing, how prepared they were, etc. I definitely get some satisfaction that I’m on the right track in helping my students be academically ready for their next steps. My favorite part, though, is when they stop by just to catch up on life. It’s evident that they feel SBA is like a second home to come back to whenever they need a little reassurance and encouragement to keep on keeping on. And it’s not just because of me. My colleagues are hands down the best you’ll find at any school, and they love our students well, too. I’m blessed that my kiddos can find strength to tackle the unknown because they know we’re always on their side and SBA will always be a safe place for them. They know that they have been loved and are still loved. That’s when I’m sure that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

 

 

Stephen Humphries

Position/School: Instrumental Music Instructor at Silverdale Baptist Academy; Adjunct Music Faculty & Applied Lesson Instructor at Covenant College

Years of Service: 9

CS: Why do you teach?

SH: I teach because I am a product of great teachers. I believe that I am called to be both a musician and an educator, and it was the influence of great teachers that helped me to realize this calling. I love seeing students of all ages grow into something more than they once thought they could be and realize the calling that God has placed on their lives.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

SH: Every day is a new adventure. I learn so much from my students and colleagues on a weekly basis, whether about myself, about life, or about education. Teaching has taught me to always be simultaneously overprepared and flexible. It has taught me the value of holding students accountable to standards and demonstrating how thoughts, words, and actions always have consequences, whether good or bad. Teaching also provides a constant reminder that I can always grow and learn as well. How could I expect my students to want to learn if it’s not evident that I value learning myself?

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

SH: Being a mentor to our youth means living out the results of all the mentors that have poured into my life over the years. These mentors, these teachers, showed me that I could become something more than I once thought was possible. When I look at nearly every aspect of my professional and personal life, I see the marks of their influence and I thank God for it. If I can provide even a small trace of that kind of positive influence on some of the lives of our youth today, then I want to spend the time and effort it will take to do so.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

SH: There have been a handful of moments over the years that have confirmed that I am where I’m supposed to be. From overhearing a student say things to her friends like, “This class is the one place I feel like I can be myself,” to having a student tell you he wants to grow up to be the school’s next Band director because he loves Band so much, to having students stop back by years after graduation and seeing how they have developed a passion for the things they are called to do that stem from a spark that started when they were a student here; all of these snapshots are little evidences of the good work that we get to be a part of in this world of education.

 

 

 

Maria & Jim Carlone

 


Education Couple, Maria and Jim Carlone

 

Maria Carlone

Position/School: 2nd Grade Spanish Immersion Teacher at St. Peter’s Episcopal School

Years of Service: 30

CS: Why do you teach? 

MC: I teach because I love the moment when I can see a light bulb go off and a child gets excited about learning. I also enjoy using my creativity, my writing, and my love for theater and storytelling to engage students and help them develop a joy and curiosity for learning. I am proud to work at a school that has both a classic and an immersion program. I love working with and learning from my colleagues. It is rewarding to break new ground – my class is the first 2nd grade immersion class in Tennessee.

CS: What has teaching taught you? 

MC: I can really make a difference in the way a child sees things, I can use my talents to help my students want to learn even more, and I am not teaching a subject, but I am teaching the whole child. I have learned that I model mindsets and values that not only determine how we learn in the classroom but that might also have an impact on how my students interact when they are not in my class. Also, I’ve learned that my colleagues and students can teach me something, and that working as a team makes learning a richer, more fulfilling experience.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth? 

MC: I get to teach the leaders of tomorrow. In our class we talk about connecting with others; showing empathy, understanding, and acceptance towards others; and showing that we accept and celebrate how we are all similar and different in many ways. These are lessons that are embedded in everything I teach and will hopefully help my children be men and women of honor and integrity and people who will want to leave a mark on the world.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact? 

MC: There are big moments that are meaningful, like when we do a Reader’s Theater performance or a Model UN Reenactment. There are also the everyday moments that are just as reaffirming, that show me how delightful it is to be able to see a child improve in his or her reading and writing skills, become more engaged in a story, or gain a better understanding of the world after learning about history or our challenges. Teaching is something you choose every day because you take very seriously the responsibility of shaping young minds and helping them develop into lifelong learners.

 

 

Jim Carlone

Position/School: Alumni Chair of Mathematics at McCallie School

Years of Service: 28

CS: Why do you teach?

JC: I wanted to be a teacher ever since I started Kindergarten and met my first teacher. Each year of elementary school I wanted to teach that grade because I thought the material was so neat. When I was in high school at McCallie, my teachers were dedicated, life-long learners who cared about helping me grow. I knew I wanted to do that too. For many students, math is not their favorite subject. I believe in creating a comfortable, fun, and safe atmosphere for my students, where they are willing to ask questions, take risks, and not only understand the math, but even see some of its beauty as well.

CS: What has teaching taught you? 

JC: It has taught me that having a great sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously, combined with expertise and preparedness, creates a winning combination in the classroom. I have also learned that young people appreciate healthy boundaries paired with kindness and respect. I love teaching math, and students are often surprised to see how much I enjoy what I am teaching. They see enthusiasm, a sincere desire to help them succeed, and a love of mathematics. I believe this is why most of my students feel my class is a positive experience for them.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth? 

JC: McCallie’s motto is “Honor, Truth, Duty.”  I love being able to teach and model this motto to my students. I try to teach them that it is okay to make mistakes, and that what makes us great people is not how many mistakes we make—because we all do at some point—but rather how well we can pick ourselves up afterwards. And I encourage them to find something important in their lives to be passionate about. It is truly a blessing to have the opportunity to play a significant role in the lives of our students.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

JC: On an April Fool’s Day early in my career, one of my Pre-Calculus classes moved all of the desks and chairs from my classroom to a grassy area outside my classroom window. When I came back from lunch, I arrived to an empty room and all of my students seated outside at their desks waiting for me. So I climbed out the window with my markers and taught the class using the window as a dry erase board!  All the students were engaged, and I was delighted to know they thought I could be spontaneous and trusted me to teach them anywhere. It was a memorable experience.

 

 

 

Colton & Hannah Stephens

 


Education Couples, Colton and Hannah Stephens

Colton Stephens

Position/School: Math Teacher at Brainerd High School

Years of Service: 5

CS: Why do you teach?

CS: I have always been passionate about education and the opportunities that it provides. Unfortunately, high quality education is not always available to all students. I teach so that I can provide the best learning experiences to every student that walks in my classroom.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

CS: Through teaching I have learned the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Investing time in my students allows for us to build a mutual trust of each other and create an efficient and fun classroom. Likewise, I have seen how my relationships with colleagues can create a support system that is invaluable.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

CS: I believe that a mentor is someone who models what healthy interactions look like on a daily basis and invests time in our youth to help them navigate the world.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

CS: Two years ago, I had a student who had a rocky start to the year. She came in with a distaste for math and anyone who was teaching it to her. I knew I had made an impact when she ran up to me after her midterm exams to express her excitement about passing them. This was one of the first moments when I could actually see that my hard work and consistency were paying off.

 

 

Hannah Stephens

Position/School: First Grade Teacher at Clifton Hills Elementary

Years of Service: 5

CS: Why do you teach?

HS: Teaching is not something I grew up wanting to do, but I knew it was something I had to do. When I was in college, I watched the documentary Waiting for Superman and wished I could change my major as soon as it ended. I continued to learn more about the state of our schools, the growing achievement gap, the dropout rate, and your zip code being one of the biggest indicators of quality of education, and knew I wanted to be a part of the change. These reasons drove to me become a teacher and the joy of a student’s success and the relationships we build with them will be what keeps me here for a long time.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

HS: There are too many to mention! Teaching has taught me that community and teamwork are the foundation of all things wonderful, that we all need grace to make mistakes and time to grow, and we are all better when we learn to love and be kind. Also, that an early bedtime is everything.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

HS: All students need someone outside of their family to cheer them on. All students deserve to see someone at school who believes in them, regardless of grades or past school experiences. Being a mentor is having a relentless belief that every child is capable of amazing things.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

HS: There are so many small, special moments that happen every day, but it’s also the growth a student makes over time that you look back on that amazes you. When I see a student begin sounding out words and they want to read that one word over and over, or when a student wants a harder math question when they didn’t like math at the beginning of the year, or the 18 hugs I get every morning and afternoon, I am reminded that I am exactly where I need to be.

 

 

 

Matt & Karen Monahan

 


Education Couple, Matt and Karen Monahan

 

Matt Monahan

Position/School: Bible Teacher and Robotics Coach at Chattanooga Christian School

Years of Service: 20

CS: Why do you teach?

MM: I love learning about the world. I love teenagers. I love connecting the two.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

MM: People are unique. There is no cookie cutter way to teach a lesson or connect with a student. If we’re honest, teachers will always be learning and improving our craft.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

MM: Mentoring goes beyond mere teaching by modeling what is (and isn’t) worth loving and pursuing and then shepherding students in that direction.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact? 

MM: While apprenticing with an older mentor teacher, I taught my first lesson on the causes of the French and Indian War. My mentor had some points of critique, but he lead by telling me “You are definitely a teacher.” As a man who grew up without a father,  older men who I respect have played a significant role in mentoring and shepherding me, including figuring out what I was called to do. I was made to teach.

 

 

Karen Monahan

Position/School: 6th Grade English Teacher at Chattanooga Christian School

Years of Service: 10+

CS: Why do you teach?

KM: It’s easy to feel discouraged if you spend much time thinking about the many problems that people are facing in our country and around the world. I teach because this is the best way I can think of to help solve those problems. I also really love a great story. I’ve been so busy raising my babies that I haven’t traveled as much as I would like. Years ago, when my kids were tiny, I would sit up late into the night with a little one, and I would hold my baby in one arm and a good book in the other. I learned to travel via fiction. Sharing this opportunity to see the world and look at it through another person’s eyes is a privilege, one I hope to share with my students. On a practical note, having the summers to spend with family and being on the same schedule is a huge perk. We love to take our pop-up on the road and camp together; we’re soaking up the last few years of our kids all being home together under the same roof.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

KM: As a recovering perfectionist, teaching has taught me to see my mistakes as an opportunity to grow and learn. Loving and leading 6th graders has taught me to loosen up a little and have fun, to be patient with others the way God is patient with me, and to speak hard truths with empathy.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

KM: Mentoring youth is HARD. They see the real you pretty quickly, so it pays to be honest and apologetic about your own shortcomings. My students and my own children want to be seen for who they are, appreciated, befriended, and prayed for. They want you to care and to show up no matter how messy their lives might be.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

KM: I doubt whether I’m doing the right thing at least once a week. Thankfully, God keeps giving me little bits of encouragement. At the 6th grade level, I get a lot of hugs and kind words. Once in a while, something exciting happens. In August this year, I had a student who was a very reluctant reader in my class the year before come in to show me a few books she bought and read on her own just because she wanted to. She was so proud of herself, and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Little moments like that keep me going even when the days feel long and I’m on empty.

 

 

 

Rene & Judith Bruzon

 


Education Couple, Rene and Judith Bruzon

 

Rene Bruzon

Position/School: 5th Grade Teacher at East Lake Elementary School

Years of Service: 17

CS: Why do you teach?

RB: I like to use my natural talents and acquired skills to help my community. I also like learning, and children are the best teachers

CS: What has teaching taught you?

RB: That I know very little.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

RB: It means being careful about what you say and do because actions speak louder than words.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

RB: I am reminded of that daily. It’s the little victories that I see happening regularly, like a new vocabulary word learned, a reference to a historical event, a comment about a future trip after graduating from college, and most of all, seeing excitement about learning.

 

 

Judith Bruzon

Position/School: ESOL Teacher at The Howard School 

Years of Service: 12

CS: Why do you teach?

JB: I truly love teaching and forming relationship with my students. I also believe that I can make a difference in students lives. Furthermore, it gives me a lot of satisfaction when my students make new discoveries. 

CS: What has teaching taught you?

JB: I learn many things, but I really like learning about different cultures. I have learned that I can motivate my students by transferring positive energy and helping them believe in themselves. 

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

JB: I consider myself an advocate. I not only teach but mediate between my students and other teachers. I also try to guide my students to a better life by encouraging them to pursue a college education. I also like to keep my students informed on what’s happening in our communities and how they can make a difference. 

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

JB: Every day. But yes, the first time a student thanked me for simply teaching. Right now, and for the first time in The Howard School, we have a group of ELLs applying to different colleges and universities. This has never happened before. This is a reflection of the work of many teachers, but I know I’ve been part of the team getting them ready for this season.

 

 

 

Kay & Jeff Gaither

 


Education Couple, Kay and Jeff Gaither

 

Kay Gaither

Position/School: Special Education Teacher at Stone Creek Elementary/Walker County & Dorm Parent at Baylor School

Years of Service: 22

CS: Why do you teach?

KG: Just like any teacher, I live for those lightbulb moments. Since I am a special education teacher the path to get to those lightbulb moments might be longer or have more twists and turns.

CS: What has teaching taught you?

KG: That each child learns differently and at a different pace. I actually learned this from watching the very different ways that my own children acquired knowledge and skills.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

KG: I think relationships are at the heart of all successful mentoring situations. My motto for my classroom is “this is a safe space to make mistakes” but a student won’t embrace that until I have a relationship with the student. I cannot challenge a student until we have a relationship established. I know that students understand that motto when we can talk openly about their mistakes and laugh about them and then encourage each other.

For boys in the dorm, I want to have a relationship with them so that we might have an opportunity to share in their life with them- their disappointments, their celebrations and their everyday events. Since I don’t have dorm duty (Jeff does), I sometimes have to create situations to develop relationships so I bake cookies or brownies and open up our apartment. I want them to come into our apartment and interact with us so that the next time I see that boy, I know a little bit about him and can talk to him more personally.

CS: Is there a moment when you knew you were in the right field/making an impact?

KG: Not one specific moment, but it is very rewarding when a student has made enough progress that they do not need intensive special education services anymore and they can move to a more inclusive setting. For boys in the dorm, it was rewarding this past summer as they returned for the new school year and they said that being at school felt like coming back home.

 

 

Jeff Gaither

Position/School: English Teacher, Cross-Country & Track Coach, Dorm Parent at Baylor School

Years of Service: 33

CS: Why do you teach?

JG: I teach and coach for a number of reasons. First, I teach because I have a passion for American Literature and what it teaches us about human nature, so I get to work in an area that would otherwise be one of my hobbies. Second, I coach because I love competition. Coaching allows me to be in a competitive environment. Third, I seem to be able to make connections with students. I love to see their reaction and engagement whether it’s in the classroom or in athletics.

CS: What has your teaching taught you?

JG: No matter how different students may seem from one another, we all have the need to be valued and listened to. My teaching has also taught me that we never stop learning.

CS: What does it mean to be a mentor to our youth?

JG: To me, an effective mentor guides students without dictating, motivates students to challenge themselves and to ask difficult questions, encourages goal-setting and assists in achieving those goals, and takes advantages of mistakes and shortcomings as learning opportunities.

CS: Is there a right moment when you knew you were in the right field?

JG: I cannot pinpoint one specific moment. There have been many. In coaching, there have been many moments when an individual or team has achieved a challenging goal, and sharing that moment is a huge encouragement to me. With teaching, affirmation often comes after the fact when students have taken time to thank me for the impact I had on their development. I have been fortunate to work in schools in which the students, parents, and administrations have been incredibly affirming. CS

 

 

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