Teacher of Year overcame fear of school
The 2011 McNairy County Teacher of the Year is Sarah Gage Allison, a McNairy Central High School biology teacher. Sarah, a 2001 graduate of MCHS, is married to Andy Allison. She is the daughter of Larry and Rose Gage of Selmer. Following is a first-person account of her experiences with school:
As with most individuals, my life and my career have been shaped by experiences – both hardships and successes. My decision to be a teacher stemmed from events that occurred during my childhood. My elementary school days were unpleasant to say the least. As a child, I experienced severe separation anxiety, a condition some doctors called “school phobia.” Leaving my parents to attend school each day was physically and emotionally draining from the first day of kindergarten through the last day of elementary school. Morning after morning, year after year, I was physically taken from the car to the classroom by my father or my mother, often wailing and kicking the entire way.
My dislike for school was known by everyone. To this day people recall that I cried every day during elementary school. Apparently, I made quite an impression on a great number of people during those difficult days of my childhood.
On the first day of middle school, I arrived rather timidly but was actually excited about “starting over” at a new school, oblivious to the fact that everyone was eagerly awaiting my dramatic arrival. I found strength in the nurturing and encouragement of my new fifth grade teacher. She provided a relaxed environment with a home-like atmosphere. She loved all her students, and each one knew it. Our days were filled with projects and activities. Her favorite subject was science, which quickly became my favorite as well. When I was in her care, I no longer felt the anxiety that had plagued me for so long. I felt as if I was simply going from my “home parents” to my “school parent.” Mornings were enjoyable at my house for the first time in over five years.
I choose to model my own attitude and my classroom after my amazing fifth grade teacher. I greet my students with kind words and a smile. I talk with them about what is going on in their lives. I care about my students and their well-being, which I try to communicate to them by being available to them as a good listener and as an advisor.
I feel that my greatest contribution to education is that I hold my students to high standards. I refuse to “go easy” on them, expecting each child to work to his potential. I feel that this not only prepares the students for more advanced science classes, but also for postsecondary educational opportunities and the workforce as well. While they often do not appreciate the rigor of the course at that moment, they have a sense of pride at the end of the course. They know that they earned every point that went into creating their grade. Through my contribution, I lead my students to greater accomplishments. Every time a student scores well on the End-of-Course or AP Exam, I consider that an accomplishment for both of us. Successes like these show that my students and I have been an effective team in working through the objectives.
I continue to take pleasure in teaching new information to my students in a welcoming and safe classroom. My heart swells with excitement as my former students return for visits from college to share how they are doing and how they are positively impacting their world. My heart is still tender to those that find the school experience overwhelming. I hope my part of their day lessens their burden.
— By Sarah Allison