You are not originally from Grundy County, but have made the mountain your home. Can you tell us about your childhood?
“I was born in Monterey, California, when my dad was in the army. We moved frequently during my childhood. I have lived in Germany and Alaska as well as here in Tennessee. I have a large family. In addition to my parents and me, I have three brothers and a sister. Also, I have five nephews, a niece, and two great-nephews.”
Did you go to school in Grundy County?
“I was not living in Grundy County for all of my elementary school years, but while here, I attended three different elementary schools – Swiss Memorial, Tracy City Elementary, and North Elementary. I played basketball for North when I was in the seventh and eighth grades.
“I was active in numerous clubs in high school, including the National Honor Society, the Beta Club, Teen Crusaders for Christ, the Government Club, and Student Council. I have vivid memories of visiting New York City and seeing Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.
“My favorite student council memory was building an 18-foot Eiffel Tower for our junior prom. I was on the yearbook staff for three years and editor my senior year. I graduated from GCHS in 1996 at age sixteen and as salutatorian of my class.”
Did you go straight to college?
“Yes. At Middle Tennessee State University, I joined and was active in Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, a co-educational fraternity built on the ideals of scholarship, leadership, and fellowship. I eventually served as president of my fraternity, and I attribute many of my traits and skills to Phi Sigma Pi.”
What inspired you to become a teacher?
“I cannot trace my decision to become a teacher to one specific incident or person. I have known since I was a young child that I wanted to be a teacher (although my parents wanted me to be an attorney). Both of my parents are retired teachers, and growing up, I loved to help my mom grade papers and create bulletin boards. Of course, there is a lot more to teaching than grading papers and creating bulletin boards, but I knew very early in life that I wanted to teach.
“As I aged, I realized that teaching was an ideal career for me. Being an educator affords me the opportunity to combine my skills with my passion; I want to make the world a better place, and there is no better starting point than in a classroom. I know that what I do each and every day has an impact on the future. That knowledge is both a blessing and a burden! As a teacher, my every decision, my every word, my every action, impacts dozens of other people. I cannot afford to have many “off” days.”
Where have you worked during your career?
“During college, I worked at Shoney’s for six months before I took a job at the Holiday Inn Express in Lavergne, Tennessee. I worked the front desk for three years and was offered a management position, which I turned down in order to finish my degree and complete my student teaching.
“I have worked the entirety of my teaching career—this is my fourteenth year—at Grundy County High School. During that time, my advocacy work and my teaching have been honored at the local, state, and national levels. I was named the Renaissance Teacher of the Year (2004), the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year (2005), and the News Channel 9 Educator of the Week (2013). In 2012, I was named a Distinguished Educator for Middle Tennessee by the Tennessee Education Association. In addition, I was a 2014 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence Winner and was honored at a gala in Washington D.C. In June 2014, I represented Tennessee and the United States on a global fellowship in China.”
You also hold offices as the local and state level.
“I am an active member of the Grundy County Education Association, the Tennessee Education Association, and the National Education Association.
“Locally, I have represented teachers as president, chief negotiator, collaborative conferencing chairperson, and grievance chairperson of the GCEA. I work to improve communication and relations between Grundy County teachers and Grundy County administration.
“At the state level, I have served on various committees as well as the TEA Board of Directors. I currently serve as Vice President of the Tennessee Education Association. My role allows me to travel the state and the country, advocating for the students, educators, and education support professionals of Tennessee.”
Where do you see education going in Tennessee, specifically Grundy County in the next few years?
“Education has radically changed during my career, especially during the last five years. Standards have changed multiple times, and testing—because of state requirements of students and teachers alike—has become the focus of Tennessee’s schools. I think that standards and assessments will continue to change, at least for the next two years, as Tennessee decides whether or not to continue implementing Common Core State Standards and exactly what assessments will look like for Tennessee students.
“Technology is becoming increasingly important for students. Students will now be assessed via computers. Moreover, students are expected to be familiar with and comfortable with using technology as a learning aid. I don’t think that our students are prepared for that; our schools do not have adequate technology to meet society’s ever-growing demand for computer proficiency.”
What do you love about your job at GCHS?
“ Honestly, when I graduated from high school, I intended to leave Grundy County and never to come back. However, during my time in college, I realized that Grundy County, despite its flaws, is not a bad place to live, to work, or to raise a family.
“I appreciate knowing that I work in a school where my colleagues actually care about me and about our students. I love working in a community that supports one another in times of need and in times of celebration.
“And my students? Well, my students are my children, and they don’t ever stop being “my kids.” When they are in high school, I am at their ball games, their band concerts, their drama productions. When they are in my class, I am concerned about their grades; when they are in other classes, I am concerned about their grades.
“It is common on progress report day to see me in the hallway, stopping former students and checking to see how they are doing in their classes. Their successes are my successes; their failures are my failures; their fears are my fears; their hurts are my hurts. And, this certainly doesn’t end when my students leave GCHS. At least once a week, I hear from a former student. In the past year, I have heard from former students about everything from tutoring to upcoming weddings to pregnancies to job promotions to successful drug rehabilitation.
“I’ve heard it said that teaching is the hardest job I’ll ever love. It certainly is hard, and I certainly love it…most days. As my job becomes more and more demanding, I remind myself that I am making a difference in the lives of my students. It is my students who keep me loving the profession. Bottom line—I love my kids more than I hate the negative aspects of the profession.”
What do you do in your free time?
“Free time doesn’t really happen for me, because in addition to teaching and working with TEA, I am pursuing a master’s degree in administration. However, if I was to have free time, I would travel. I like to travel to new places, experience new cuisine, and visit historic sites. I also enjoy theatre, cooking, and reading.”
Is there something about you that would surprise your students?
“Most people assume that I am fearless. I am not. I actually have a paralyzing fear of being lost. I got lost when I was five years old, and the experience truly scarred me for life!”
Finally, what are you listening to on your iPod?
“My music tastes are pretty eclectic. I listen mostly to Christian music, but I enjoy everything from Pentatonix to Tenth Avenue North to Sam Smith.”
Beth is an integral part of education in Grundy County. She is favorite among students, staff, and parents. In supporting her students inside and outside the classroom she gives a gift to the entire community.