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Teachers return to classroom, students, subjects, colleagues drive passion

From left: Creighton Browder, Maya Melind and Lanishya Scruggs wait for class to start at Johnson Elementary.  PHOTOS BY BRANDY BLANTON

Colton Skog and Angelina Escandell

Julie Franklin, Emma Franklin (5th grade), Anne Lawton, Browder Lawton (5th grade) and Creighton Lawton

Teaching can be more than a professional vocation, explained one Franklin educator, as she prepared to join well over 3,000 colleagues returning to campuses and classrooms across Williamson County this week and next.

Franklin Special School District signaled the 2013-2014 year yesterday and Williamson County Schools will open doors tomorrow for a half-day.

First things first
Over the next several days, public, private, and home school educators, will begin a new year working in a field that may be one of the most challenging in America.
What motivates these folks to return for another round of instruction?

“I think it’s a ministry. I think I was called to do this. I feel like teaching was what I was supposed to do,” comments Sharon Hargrave.

Hargrave, a 36-year teaching veteran, met some of her new students Monday night during a “Meet and Greet” hosted by FSSD.

Johnson Elementary second grader Jolan Grigsby met Hargrave for the first time. She dressed in a space flight suit for the evening introduction.

The message she intended to send, she says, is one that she is excited and ready to launch a year of learning.

“I love the kids and the excitement of meeting the kids,” Hargrave emphasizes, noting that keeping kids engaged is her top priority.

To return year after year is a commitment, but Hargrave contends that the fulfillment is well worth any challenges.

Support from leaders and colleagues, however, is what makes the difference.
“This is the best place I have ever worked…this is a committed school board for children and this is part of me coming back. It is the support from the superintendent to the school board to the administrators.”

Besides exciting kids, Hargraves believes in mentoring colleagues.

She works closely with the system’s new teacher induction program.

“Whether you have been teaching for ten years or you are fresh out of school teachers need support,” Hargrave says. But “research tells us that within the first five years of teaching we lose teachers due to no support.”

Hence her involvement in the mentoring program.
Oh, and how the mentor works
Several miles and two zip codes to the north, Randy Box just finished his forty-fifth consecutive summer band camp—either as a student or instructor.
“The higher that number gets, the more I ask myself ‘Why am I going back again?’” says Brentwood High School’s band director of 22 years.

His answer is at first short: “kids and music.”

Then the true roots of his response appear.

He speaks of his own youth, a time when music enriched his classroom and his home.
Parents who had no formal musical training inspired him. A grandmother’s passion for “Sacred Harp” music engaged him. A grandfather’s fiddle and banjo playing entertained him.
And then there are the teacher mentors.

Box mentions one—Franklin resident Elmo Barry, who was a longtime musical light to the choir ministry of Brentwood Baptist Church.

Barry “was just the first of several band directors that made a huge difference in my life.”

Box has so much to add to this conversation about teaching—and who is really teaching whom—but more will come from this veteran during this 2013-2014 year.

Franklin’s flagship
Moving south down Franklin Road to the neighboring city’s flagship elementary school, one cannot help but be inspired by the message of Dr. Dawn James.

Franklin Elementary School, formerly Franklin Grammar School until the 1960s, is the place James comes alive.

Math is her passion. It will be her sole focus this year with the entire FES fourth grade.
“Purposeful” is what she calls the opportunity to teach youngsters one subject all day long.

“Our goal is too have all of them either proficient or advanced in math,” James says with confidence already of the final outcome.

To that end, she relies on a myriad of strategies.

Ironically, the first priority she employs is to keep morale high, which she believes allows the success to flow.

She speaks passionately about her colleagues and says, “We are a family among co-workers and among children. We have got to stick together.”
And that they do, James says.

Interestingly enough, this veteran teacher chose to do her dissertation on a subject involving interpersonal strategies between employees.

“When we are appreciative of each other…our sense of who we are and what we are is unstoppable.”

Joining the ranks
As Autumn Edwards joins the ranks of this tight-knit group called educators, she does not have any doubt what she has stepped into.

For Winstead Elementary School’s students, teachers and parents her outlook may provide a restful night’s sleep.

“I come from a family full of educators,” says Edwards, who is beginning her career this week as a Winstead teacher.

Her family lineage provides her with “the knowledge to understand where education has been and the direction it is moving.”

“The current challenges in public education have motivated me to want to be a part of the ongoing transformation to improve education,” Edwards adds.

“I sought out Williamson County Schools as the system to begin my career in education because of the county’s outstanding reputation, innovative leadership, and commitment to 21st century learning. It is truly an honor to work for Williamson County Schools at Winstead Elementary.”

(Editor’s note: The Williamson Herald will be examining the lives of many teachers as the school year progresses. For story ideas, contact us at


Posted on: 8/8/2013


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