Why Haywood – Stacy Taylor – East Side Elementary

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?

Stacy Taylor grew up in Haywood County Schools and even attended the school where she currently teaches – East Side Elementary.  After spending 14 years in neighboring Fayette County, Stacy found herself wanting to come back home and teach in the community where she lived.  

I sat down with Stacy just before state testing to ask her a few questions about her educational influences, the challenges and rewards of teaching, and why she’s investing in the lives of students in Haywood County.

Below are some excerpts from our conversation.  To hear the full interview, check out Episode 6 of Tomcat Talk.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – name, educational background, and how you got into teaching?

I teach 3rd Grade ELA at East Side.  This is my 22nd year in the classroom.  I started out in Fayette County and the rest of my years teaching have been spent here in Haywood County.  

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 prefer teaching third grade because it’s what I’ve taught the most.  Out of the 22 years I’ve taught, I’ve spent 19 of those in third grade.  I’m most familiar and most comfortable with teaching third grade.  I just really like the age of students in the third grade – students are a little bit independent but not TOO grown yet.

I don’t think I’d like to teach middle school or high school.  I actually enjoyed my student teaching experience, which was in middle school, but now I think I’m more comfortable with everything under the sixth grade.

What is the most challenging part about teaching?

The challenging part of teaching right now is the attendance of students. With COVID, attendance has been very inconsistent.  It’s starting to get better now, but at one time it was really, really tough to get students caught up if they had missed a lot of school.

Learning loss has been a big challenge, too, and that’s directly connected to COVID and the last two years in education.

What is the most rewarding aspect about teaching?

When I have taught students something and I can see that the students have grasped what I’ve taught and that lightbulb comes on – that’s the most rewarding part of teaching.  

I’m also at a point in my career where I have former students who are adults now and they come back and see me.  I’ve had a lot of my former students who have graduated college and are working on their masters degree;  that makes me feel good to see their success and know I was a small part of it.  

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

I leave early on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and my students know I leave early, but they don’t know why.  Last year, I had a medical emergency and I’ve been on dialysis ever since.  I need a kidney and am on the list, but my students don’t  know.  I still live my life like I always have.

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

I think back to my fourth grade teacher.  Her name was Mrs. Jarrett.  She was so organized and together.  Sometimes, I think back to her when I teach and want to make sure I’m organized and my students are organized.  I can’t deal with chaos.

Why Haywood?

When I graduated from Austin Peay in 1998, I came back to Haywood County and subbed from January to May.  I subbed the next year, too.  

In the process, I was putting in applications all over the area.  I ended up getting an offer from Fayette County and got hired on the spot.  I worked there for 14 years.  My last year in Fayette County, we were getting ready to move schools and I didn’t want to do that.  I thought that was a sign that it was time for me to come back home to Haywood County.

I was born and raised in Haywood County.  I went to school at East Side, Sunny Hill, HMS; it just feels right to come back home.

Teaching where you grew up has its pros and cons because everybody knows you in your hometown.  It’s a good thing because I know most of the families and have a rapport with them.