Wychickia Watkins – HES Teacher of the Year

For Haywood Elementary School First Grade teacher, Wychickia Watkins, Haywood County is home and always has been. She attended school from Kindergarten to her senior year in Haywood County Schools, and now she’s teaching in the same district where she grew up. Not only is she teaching, but she’s doing it at a high-level. Wychickia was named Teacher of the Year at Haywood Elementary School this year. 

“I’m so honored and ecstatic to be named teacher of the year at my school. I’m so proud that my co-workers voted for me to represent Haywood Elementary School as teacher of the year,” she said.

Even though Wychickia grew up in Haywood County Schools, she didn’t attend Haywood Elementary School. Her elementary years were spent at East Side.

“When I was young, the schools were split – county and city – so I didn’t go to Haywood Elementary, but I did grow up here in Haywood County,” she said. “I’m proud to come back and teach in the school system where I attended. It’s a little different than when I attended school, but the same values are there and the same representation.”

From an early age, Wychickia knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her pathway to becoming a classroom teacher didn’t follow the traditional route, however. Her first years in a classroom were spent as an Educational Assistant. Her peers saw her passion and talent for working with students and encouraged her to pursue her teaching license. 

“I always did well in school and had some great teachers in HCS that inspired me to go back and be a teacher,” she recalled. 

While her pathway to teaching wasn’t direct, Wychickia was always certain about what grade level she wanted to teach once she found her way to the classroom.

“I never thought about teaching middle or high school. I’ve always wanted the younger kids; they’re more energetic. I do well with younger kids. This age, kids are still sweet and engaged and ready to learn,” she said.

When Wychickia was in school (and even now as an adult), she loved to read. She’s taken that passion for reading and parlayed it into an engaging and exciting classroom environment where young learners can see her love for reading and make it their own.

“I tell my kids that reading can take them anywhere. I may be grounded in this room, but when I open a book, I can go anywhere. I can’t stress that enough,” she explained. “It is very important that students at this age learn the basic skills of reading – phonics, phonemic awareness. We need to develop a love of reading in students this age, so I try to share my passion for reading every day in class.”

When Wychickia was an elementary school student in HCS, she was with the same teacher all day for every subject. As a teacher now, however, Wychickia gets to teach Reading while her partner teacher teaches Math. This arrangement allows Wychickia to teach two groups of students during the day while focusing on her passion of teaching Reading.

“We do partner teaching here where my partner teacher will teach Math and I’ll teach Reading. We’ve done that for four years and it’s refreshing to teach two groups of students each day rather than just staying with the same group all day long,” she said. “As a team, we’re trying to do all we can to get our students reading on grade level by the time they leave the first grade.”

Regardless of the subject matter that Wychickia teaches, she knows that there are core values every great teacher should have. She understands that students are far more than test scores and have individual personalities, lives, and stories. 

“If you’re going to be a good teacher, you have to have passion for your students. You have to love your students. You have to remember that everyone doesn’t come from the same background,” she said. “I think I’m great at building relationships with my students; I get to know them individually. I also show them that I’m human. I tell them that I make mistakes, and once a teacher can do that, students realize that they care about them and that they’re human.”

In the end, Wychickia is beyond grateful that she gets to do what she loves in the place where she grew up. 


“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I’m living my dream right now – teaching students every day.”