Students return to teach at schools they graduated from

Liliana Castillo

Curry County teachers who have returned to their alma mater say there is a special bond between them and the community because of their history.

Marshall Middle School life science teacher and coach Darren Williams has been a teacher for 12 years and has taught at Clovis Municipal Schools for the duration.

“I like the atmosphere. We’re like a big family,” he said.

Williams, 41, is a Clovis native and grew up with his boss, Principal Jay Brady.

“He’s done a lot for the kids and the school,” Williams said. “We’re all here together, working for the kids.”

Texico third grade teacher Beth Thornton said she enjoys the support from a tight-knit community such as Texico.

“We have a really good school system. There are high standards and we can achieve them because we have a lot of support from the community,” Thornton said.

Thornton, 48, said because she attended Texico, students and staff often expect her to know everyone.

“I don’t think that it’s any different than any other teacher,” she said. “But I do teach in the third grade class I was a third-grader in.”

Melrose math teacher Joe Reed, 56, was born and raised in Melrose. He attended some of elementary school in Floyd, but returned to Melrose for much of his education. He said there is a different kind of relationship backing a student’s education when their teacher knows all of their parents.

“If I need to talk to a parent, they recognize my number when I call. They know my cell number. And if I don’t get them when I call, they call back immediately,” Reed said.

Reed, 56, said he enjoys teaching in a small district.

“The biggest difference between a larger district and a smaller district is the amount of one-on-one time I can give to the students,” Reed said.

Grady math teacher Lynn Lindsey said he feels more involved with the community and school because he both attended and teaches there.

“I couldn’t teach at a bigger place,” Lindsey said. “I enjoy the small classes, everybody knows everybody.”

Lindsey, 58, also farms in Grady and said he enjoys teaching in the community in which he has such a connection.

Melrose fourth grade teacher Tammy Jacobs said she feels a strong connection with the school and community.

“Teachers always do feel a strong connection with the school,” she said. “This is just home for me and always will be. I have a vested interest in the success of the school. My own kids go here now.”

Jacobs, 47, said she has known most of her students before she was their teacher.

“Their parents know me, they know my character and they know I’m going to pass it on in the classroom. I can expect more from my students because I know their parents’ expectations for them,” she said.

Grady teacher Michell Edwards, 35, said she has pride for the school.

“It’s from knowing the community. I have a relationship with them and the kids,” she said.

Clovis music teacher Tracee Tankersley said she enjoys the family-like feeling of the Clovis school district.

“Because I was raised here, I recognize a lot of people. It’s fun teaching my friends’ kids. I get to know a lot of people. I like running into people I know around town. That’s something you can’t trade, seeing familiar faces,” she said.

Tankersley, 36, said she receives encouragement from parents in such a small tight-knit community.

Texico agriculture mechanics teacher Terry Whitener, 47, said the Christian-based community of Texico plays a large role in the school.

“Students are allowed to bring that into their education experience,” he said. “Being a smaller school, we can offer better experiences to more students.”

Teacher bios

Grady

Lynn Lindsey, math teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — Willard White. He was the math teacher at Grady. He was a hard teacher but fair. I had a lot of respect for him.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — I have a strict classroom. I’d rather them be working than goofing off. I learned that as a child and I kinda grew up with a good work ethic. I try to be busy all the time.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — I enjoy trying to explain and go over concepts with the students. I try to make it as interesting as I can.

Michell Edwards, fourth grade teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — My FFA teacher Storm Gearhart. He set very high standards. He expected us and helped us achieve them.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — Gearhart taught us to keep it simple. He always said don’t make everything so hard. Keep it simple and believe in ourselves. I still do that.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — I have a passion for the kids. I know I had more than one really great teacher when I was in school. I’ve always known that’s what I was going to do.

Texico

Terry Whitener, ag mechanics teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — Texico had so many excellent teachers that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one favorite. This is probably because of the atmosphere within the school.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — I believe a great lesson I learned is that people feel good when they hear positive praise. It creates better self confidence, spirit, determination, drive and willingness to learn.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — These students want to be here and are excited to learn how stuff works and how to put it together or make it from scratch. I frequently see the “Oh, I see” look on their faces when they realize how some of that math they’ve been learning is put to use.

Beth Thornton, third grade teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — Anna Sutter. She was my English teacher in junior high. She was really good. She was hard on us but cared a lot.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — A specific way of squaring numbers which third-graders understand.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — It’s a good age group. They’re old enough to have some independence but they still really want to do what the teacher wants them to do.

Melrose

Joe Reed, math teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — My math teacher Dan Ward. The class was just fun in my opinion. I’m sure my fellow classmates didn’t have the same opinion. I enjoyed his class. He was serious about math but at the same time could be humorous.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — My dad was the elementary principal. The lesson I learned from his was to dress and act professionally. He taught me by example.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — The biggest thrill in teaching math is seeing the light come on. You’re standing up front working on an example and you turn around and see all these blank faces. Then you see someone’s face light up and the light turn on.

Tammy Jacobs, fourth grade teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — I had two. Mrs. Crownover and Mrs. Paige Smith. When I had Mrs. Crownover, it was my first year at that school and it was her first year and she took me under her wing and made me feel welcome. Mrs. Smith made learning fun. It was exciting and fun and that’s when I realized I wanted to be a teacher.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — I read Charlotte’s Web and still read it. I read it to my students. It teaches responsibility, that life isn’t fair and that through hand work and persistence you can prevail.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — I enjoy it because I feel like I’ve been able to make a difference in those who have been struggling. I get to see them make progress.

Clovis

Darren Williams, science teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — Janita Stanfield. She made science fun. There was a lot of hands on. She was very energetic. You could tell she liked what she taught.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — It was in Stanfield’s class. We had partners and I was sitting by a cute girl. She hadn’t done her homework so I let her look at it and copy my answers. Stanfield gave me a hundred and then said since I shared, we each get 50 percent. I still use that today with my students.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — I like that I can tie it to things I’ve done in the past. Life sciences is biology for seventh graders. I can tie it to something the kids have seen.

Tracee Tankersley, music teacher

Who was your favorite teacher? — Annie Gililland. She had a quirkiness about her that was endearing to us kids. She was part of our family. She had a way of communicating with us that made us feel loved. She was a tough teacher. She made you want to do well for her.

What is a lesson you learned as a student that you still use today? — I wasn’t great at math. I learned that you need to find what your own areas of strengths and weaknesses are. We are who we are.

What do you enjoy about the subject you teach? — I love when I see kids enjoying music. You can see it on their faces. They’ll be singing out loud or dancing and they don’t care who’s watching or if they’re doing it right. They just come alive.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Liliana Castillo