Why Haywood – Cedric Bunch – Haywood Elementary School

Coming on the heels of two fractured school years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of educators are considering a new career.  According to a poll conducted by the National Education Association in January of 2022, 90% of its members surveyed said that feeling burned out is a serious problem.  

On a macro level, educators are critical to the continuing success and development of our country as a whole.  On a micro level, finding and retaining teachers in Haywood County who want to teach in the community and invest in the lives of students is of the highest importance to the district.  Without passionate teachers, the plans and programs of a district would be null and void no matter how innovative those plans and programs are.  

In West Tennessee, there are multiple districts in need of teachers that are within driving distance of Haywood County.  Outside of the world of education, there are companies and job opportunities available in abundance.  So, what keeps our teachers in Haywood County?

Cedric Bunch is a lifetime resident of Haywood County.  As a student, he started at Haywood Elementary School and finished at Haywood High School.  For the last seven years, Cedric has led our 21st Century extended learning program in Haywood County Schools.  This past January, Cedric took a position as a second grade teacher at Haywood Elementary School.

I sat down with Cedric and discussed what the transition to the classroom has been like for him, how he motivates students, and the importance of having male teachers in an elementary school setting.  

Below are some excerpts from the full interview.  You can listen to the entire conversation on Episode 5 of Tomcat Talk.  

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a second grade teacher at HES as well as director of 21st Century Programs in Haywood County.  It was back in third grade when I realized I wanted to be a teacher.  I just remember the great experiences I had in Ms. Toni Eubanks’ classroom.  Back when I was growing up, being a teacher or a doctor or a police officer were the jobs kids wanted.  I started out in education but ventured into corporate America, but after all that I still had a passion for education.  So, I went back to school and finished up my degree.  I got offered the director’s job of 21st Century in 2015 and fell in love with that.  I was able to build the 21st Century Program how I wanted to.  I had some great mentors like Ms. Kathryn Lester who was the director of the program when I arrived.  

In education, it’s so very important that we never lose the voice of the students.  We need to give them a space to be able to have a voice.  That’s what we push with “The Leader in Me” program at HES.

What grade level do you teach?  Do you prefer this grade level or what grade level would you want to teach if you could?  

I’m teaching second grade Reading and am having a blast!  I love teaching kids the love of reading.  I tell them that it’s not just about reading a book, but taking that book and bringing it to life.  

I’ve built some great relationships with students since I started in January.  I really like teaching second grade because the kids can still be molded and shaped at this age.  They listen and really want to learn.  

If students know you care, and you’re not trying to make them like you, a relationship can be built.

I’m not opposed to teaching any grade…even Pre-K.  When you have a love for students and want to see them grow, any grade would be fun to teach.  It all depends on what you put into it and what you’re willing to do.  

Kids are going to kids regardless of the grade.  You can’t take things personally.  If a student gets in trouble or makes a poor choice, I tell them that those mistakes don’t define them.  Every day is a new day.

What is the most challenging part about teaching?

The most challenging part for me has been making sure parents of my students are involved and know everything that’s going on.  That was something I needed to improve from when I first started.  Parent/teacher conferences helped get me on the same page and taught me what I needed to learn to make sure I stayed in touch with parents.  

What is the most rewarding aspect about teaching?

For me, the most rewarding aspect is to see the growth of the students I’m serving.  When I decided to take the job, there were several things said to me about my class, but I wanted to form my own opinion about them.  But when I see how much my students have grown academically and behaviorally is so exciting for me.  

What aspect of your personality do you feel students connect with the most?

I really like to have fun in class with kids.  Learning should be fun and when you show students that you’re having fun doing what you’re doing, then they start to have fun.

I could walk down the hallway and see kids that I don’t know, but who know me.  I just take time to try and build relationships with every student even if they’re not in my class.  Kids want someone who will show them that love and compassion towards them.

What is something about you that your students would never guess?

Most of my students don’t know that I’m a Youth Pastor.  I had young people who came to my church and they saw me in that role and then they would tell their friends.  

A lot of my students don’t know that I’m a musician and a singer.  I’ll sing in class sometimes.  Every lesson has a song – a teacher’s verse and a student’s verse.  They love it.

Was there an educator along the way that influences the way you teach or inspired you to be an educator?

There were so many educators that inspired me coming through Haywood County – Ms. Toni Eubanks, Mr. Marvin Taylor, Mr. Mike Lee, Ms. Dorothy Bond.  They really inspired me in the classroom and brought love into the classroom.  

Why Haywood?

Growing up and living here all my life, this is such a great way to give back to the community that reared me.  There are options out there, but when you’re invested where you live, you want to see it grow.  I had great teachers and great mentors, and I want to be that for this generation of students in Haywood County.