Why Haywood – Mystic Taylor – Sunny Hill

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?

Mystic Taylor knew the injury was bad as soon as her daughter fell to the floor on the basketball court.  Non-contact injuries always seem to be more serious.  Sure enough, the verdict was a torn ACL that would preemptively end the senior basketball season of Mystic’s daughter and completely cancel her softball season.  Mystic may not have experienced the physical and emotional pain of having a senior season cut short, but she knew every other feeling her daughter felt in her four years playing for the Lady Tomcats.  

Born and raised in Haywood County, Mystic attended Haywood County Schools and excelled as a student-athlete in much the same way her daughter did over the last four years at Haywood High School.  After a career in the corporate world, Mystic came back to Haywood County Schools, but this time as a teacher. While her daughter is finishing her academic and athletic career this year at Haywood High School, Mystic is just beginning her professional teaching career in HCS as a first year Math teacher at Sunny Hill Intermediate School.  

I sat down with Mystic to explore why she made a career change and why she wanted to invest in Haywood County.  Below are excerpts from our conversation.  Access the full audio interview on our Tomcat Talk podcast by clicking the link.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a product of the Haywood County School System and attended college at Lane College.  I graduated from Lane with a business degree and then pursued my Master’s Degree at Bethel University with a concentration in Human Resource Management.

This is my first year teaching, and I’m really enjoying it so far.  It was quite a transition.  I used to be a production scheduler for Teknor Apex for close to ten years.  

I really enjoy being around kids and that’s why I wanted to get into teaching.  I enjoy seeing kids achieve things – whether it’s in athletics or in the classroom.  I wanted to give to the community…a lot of the kids remind me of myself when I was growing up here.  

What grade level do you teach?  

I teach fifth grade Math.  Education has definitely changed since I was a fifth grade student in HCS.  All of the technology we have available to use to enhance learning is wonderful, especially in a class like Math. 

What is the most challenging part about teaching?

The most challenging part of teaching in my first year is making sure my students are understanding what we’re learning in class and making sure parents are involved and are understanding what their child is learning.

What is the most rewarding aspect about teaching?

Seeing the kids come together and work together in the classroom to better understand math.  I’ve also had kids who told me at the beginning of the year that math was their worst subject and least favorite subject, but now they understand it and love it.  That means a lot to me as a teacher to hear that.

If I miss school, they notice.  They’ll ask me why I missed and will tell me they missed me.

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

I’m outgoing.  I don’t mind getting right there with them.  I tell them that Math is loud…you move with Math.  We get up, we move around, we work in groups.  They’ll go to the board and teach the class.  We’re an active classroom because I’m an active person.  I think that really connects with kids.  

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

They initially thought I had been teaching for a long time, so they were surprised to learn this is my first year teaching.  They always ask me “why would you want to teach?”  And, I just tell them that I want to be here to help them, to make sure they understand what they’re learning, to invest back into the community.  

I think it’s really important for them to know that I was a student in Haywood County Schools and that my daughter is a student in Haywood County Schools.  We’re like them.  And, they know my daughter is an athlete, they see her at games, and I always tell my students that my daughter is a student first then an athlete.  I want to make sure they understand that grades matter and getting an education comes first.

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

My first grade teacher, Ms. Ann Watson was awesome.  She took the time to make sure we had all the extra help we needed.  I knew I could ask her anything or for help and she wouldn’t hesitate.  That’s how I try to be with my students.  I want them to know that my door is always open.  

Why Haywood?

I wanted to be that beacon of light for a lot of kids.  I wanted them to see that I came through this school system, got a great education, went to college, went to graduate school, and I want them to know they can do the same things.  I tell my students to always keep an open mind; I tell them to keep pushing even if they feel tired or feel like they don’t like school.  

When I was in school, I had teachers who encouraged me to get through obstacles I would face, and I want to be that for my students, too.