Highlighting the eighteen Special Education and Elementary Educators in our family in the last post was so much fun! I got to know more about some cousins than I had ever known before! I hope to continue that joy by focusing on more family members who have chosen to serve our society by teaching in Middle School, High School, as Principals and in our Colleges and Universities! We are blessed by these individuals who not only enrich our family, but make our society a better place! Thank you so very much!
Middle School usually covers sixth through eighth grades in the United States. When I was a young teacher, it was called Junior High and usually included 7th, 8th, and sometime 9th graders. My husband Max and I both taught in Junior High Schools for brief periods of our career. We are included in other categories however, as is my cousin Kay Youngblood Fuller who did teach in Middle School, but became a Principal and will be included there. I personally think Middle School aged students are the toughest to teach! They are just moving out of that childhood stage where they are generally fairly easy to motivate to behave and to learn. By the time most teens reach 15 or 16, they seem to mature a bit, begin to think about college, and are sometimes more goal oriented. (I know I am talking in general!) Middle schoolers are wonderful and unique, in that they have one foot planted squarely in childhood and the other rebelliously in teenagehood! They love to discuss the big world issues, and can be very wise, but bring out the crayons and legos…and they are instantly transported to those “live for the moment” children! It can be a delightful, trying age, and a challenging teaching assignment!
One of my 1st cousins once removed on my Mother’s side (Kearse, Houchins, Langhorne) is Rebecca Jayne Williamson Stodola. Becky teaches in middle school now and has an illustrious record of her work! Becky’s father was a high school teacher and principal, and her sister Stephanie teaches also and will be profiled later ! Their Mom was a nurse, but Claudia served as a substitute teacher as well. What a blessing they have been to our family and to our society.!
Becky Stodola earned her Masters in Education at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, after earning her undergraduate degree at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. She started her career teaching Pre-Kindergarten at Church of the Savior Day School in Roswell, Georgia for three years. Then she spent four years teaching Reading and Creative Writing at the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy for the Marietta City Schools. This vibrant young woman continued her career with ten years of teaching English, Language Arts–Literature, Composition and Reading for all grade levels at Woodstock Middle School and Mill Creek Middle School for the Cherokee county School District. During this time she was also a wife and mother of her lovely daughter Miranda. Along the way Becky received the Kiwanis GEM –Goes the Extra Mile–award in 2004! It didn’t surprise me then when I heard that she was one of the teachers who voluntarily stayed with many children overnight when they could not get home due to a severe ice storm! Wow!
Becky also received the Cherokee County Educational Foundation IMPACT Grant this year! Her superb work was recognized when she was chosen New Teacher of the Year for MSGA, in 2002-03, and again for MCMS for 2015-16! We are so proud of you Becky, your immediate and your extended family. Thank you for your service just doesn’t seem like enough!
Noelle Roberts Kitchen is a cousin through my Spangler/Langhorne line. She teaches 7th grade Language Arts at Cramerton Middle school in Cramerton, North Carolina about forty miles west of Charlotte. Noelle is starting her ninth year teaching this year! At only 32 years of age, that seems remarkable to me! Noelle is married and has two daughters who keep her busy outside of school! Noelle says she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was still in high school. She ran track and was very athletic, soon beginning to stay and help coach the other athletes. She loved helping them reach their goals, and went to college thinking she’d become a physical education teacher. She graduated from Western Carolina University. Then– epitomizing the whole purpose of these blog posts on the importance of teachers–she took an English Class in college from a Professor Gastle, loved the writing and reading, and decided with his influence that she would become an English teacher! Don’t we wish we could count all the teachers who have made these kinds of life altering influences on their students. Good Teachers ROCK!
Noelle is thankful to all of the teachers who influenced her greatly along the way, and she now states unequivocally, “I hope to always help children find their way the way I was helped.” She credits many of her teachers, but goes on to relate that Mr. Gastle, was the speaker at her English Honor Society induction. When she started her student teaching, she was nervous, and went to him with many questions, one of which was, “What should I do if a student asks me a question for which I do not know the answer?’ He readily told her that might indeed happen, and his suggestion was to use it as a learning opportunity, and find the answer together. He told her that generally, the student will remember that experience more than thinking gleefully that he “stumped” the teacher. Thank you God for wise teachers!
Noelle readily credits her family influences also for gifts that make her a good teacher. Gaining the love of independence from her mother and leadership skills from her Dad has served her very well. She has identified her organizational skills as being nurtured especially by one grandparent, while crediting another for her love of coaching and one more for teaching her patience!. She loves teaching as part of a team, and states that her team teacher says that “she is the fire starter, and I am the peacemaker.” How wonderful to recognize the importance of both, in fact all of these skills, and how lucky for their students!
Developing this thankful heart for the good influences in her life, and the love she has received spills over into more of her philosophy of teaching. Noelle says, “I teach students not only to help them learn academics, but to help them learn to be a good person as well. I don’t believe kids can reach their potential when they haven’t had their basic needs met. One of those needs is being loved. Every student I teach hears the words, “I love you” on a regular basis, and it is the truth. I love the kids I teach. If they don’t remember a thing I’ve said all year, they will remember that “my teacher cared about me and wanted the best for me.” In closing, Noelle shares this story with me which I think you will enjoy hearing also, as it is what we all want for our students and for ourselves!
“Last year I had a student who was really struggling. He was in therapy for all the trauma he experienced at home, and acted out in school often. When he wasn’t acting out, he tried to sleep in class. From the start I knew my hands were going to be full with him. I showed him time and time again throughout the year that I was there for him, I was on his side and he could count on me. He is a student who needed very much to hear the special words, ‘I love you,’ and ‘I want what’s best for you.’ At the end of the year another student started to yell at me in class! Before I could even speak, the child I had been worrying about all year hopped up out of his desk and told the boy, “You can’t speak to her like that!” He said “you better respect her (Noelle, the teacher) because she respects all of us!” I intervened before things got heated, but I knew at that moment I had made it clear to that student that he mattered. He was important to me and in turn I was important to him. This year this same child has brought his problems to confide in me. Sometimes a good teacher is all a kid has in this world. That is what I aim to be every day.“
Our family is so blessed by the inclusion of teachers like Becky Williamson Stodola and Noelle Kitchen Roberts! They represent us so very well, make us all proud, and personify what is best about all teachers! Thanks you two, for being such GREAT teachers!
There are several other middle school teachers in our family, but they also taught or lead at other levels and will be recognized there. The next installment will honor our high school teachers. I would love to hear your reaction to these stories, and your meeting or being refreshed on the lives of these two great teachers, or the ones from my last post. What a joy to have these folks in our family!