Hawkins County class exposes students to the education profession

ROGERSVILLE — The Teaching as a Profession (TAP) program at Cherokee High School, Volunteer High School and Clinch School introduces students to the teaching side of education and inspires some of them to become teachers.

Volunteer CTE Principal Claire Bass said school officials decided to offer the program because they saw a need.

“We saw students interested in teaching, and where there is need, we want to create opportunities because we want all of our students to find their space where they belong and where they feel success,” Bass said.

Bass said it shows students how they can make a change in the lives of young people.

“I think something like teaching as a profession is important for our students because I think in our schools is where we can create the most change,” Bass said. “So we are helping our students here learn how to be intentional and meaningful change makers for our future.”

Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson said the TAP program actually helps the school system.

“It helps us deal with the teacher shortage for the future,” Hixson said. “We’re always looking for teachers that know our students, that know the community and that are well trained and ready to go. So this helps identify those students while they’re still in high school and progressing in their coursework to become teachers and ultimately helps support them so that when they’re ready to enter the classroom as a teacher, they’re ready to go for Hawkins County Schools.”

Hixson said through the Grow Your Own program run by the state, Hawkins County Schools tries to support students who go through the TAP program.

Volunteer instructor Kaylen Wood said she has learned more about teaching through the course.

“This class has really opened my eyes to my job and like really digging down into it even more,” Wood said. “I have learned more as a teacher by teaching them how to be teachers.”

Misty Williams, who teaches TAP at Clinch, said she enjoys sharing her passion with her students.

“I love the opportunity to be able to develop people who may be interested in being teachers in the future,” Williams said.

Wood said the program allows students to see if teaching is the career for them.

“I think it helps them decide if that’s something they really want to do before they go to college,” Wood said. “In my personal experience, I started out teaching in college and switched to nursing for about a year and a half, but it didn’t work out. I realized nursing was not what I wanted to do, and I switched back to teaching. It showed me that teaching was definitely what I needed to do and what I wanted to do, but I had to spend a couple of extra years in college figuring that out. So I think by offering these kinds of classes in high school, it helps to try different classes to see what they like.”

Both Cherokee and Clinch offer four levels of TAP classes that students can take all four years of high school. At Volunteer, students can take intro to TAP and TAP 1.

In the intro to teaching as a profession, or TAP 1, students start by learning the foundations of education. Then as they progress through the other three levels, they begin learning about making lesson plans, classroom management, learning styles and much more.

At the final level, students can participate in work-based learning opportunities in actual classrooms.

Cherokee instructor Teresa Bishop said the practicum class is important because it really shows students if they want to be a teacher.

“I hope by going out and spending the time in the classroom they can say, ‘Oh, well, yeah, I really do like this’ or ‘No way. I don’t want to do this,’ ” Bishop said.

Williams said even though the TAP program doesn’t offer students any kind of certifications, it does give them a jumpstart on informational knowledge they will learn in college.

“If teaching is something that they’re interested in doing, then they get a leg up on everyone else because now they’ve had three years of learning about different types of learning theories and learning styles,” Williams said. “They’ve had the opportunity to actually teach in classes and work with students. So it gives them that experience over others who might not be able to take TAPs.”

This year, Bishop’s fourth-year students visited Rogersville City Schools for a total of 15 weeks and spent five weeks each in three different grade levels. Cherokee students at the third level spend a whole quarter in the special-ed program.

Williams hasn’t started practical experience but plans to in the future and said students would be able to visit the different grade levels at Clinch.

Bishop said her students also participate in competitions with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

Many students taking the TAP classes said they knew they wanted to be teachers from an early age.

Volunteer senior Connor Sykes said he wants to be a teacher because of the teachers who have inspired him.

“I want to be a teacher one day and hopefully become a coach and just help kids in the next generation like the teachers now help me,” Sykes said. “I’ve just had some good teachers throughout the school that have inspired me and changed my life, and I eventually want to help kids of the next generation.”

Sykes said he enjoys learning about the background behind teaching.

“There’s more to education than just getting up there and teaching kids; you can help them and have relationships with your students,” Sykes said.

Cherokee senior Karli Lawson said she took the class because she is interested in becoming an art teacher.

“I really liked art, and I was inspired by Miss Williams’s style of teaching,” Lawson said. “Her connection with our students is like really powerful to me.”

Volunteer freshman Rylee Smith said that she believes teachers can have “a big impact on kids.”

“I like the idea of helping younger kids and shaping them to be good people,” Cherokee senior Makenna Bledsoe said.

Volnteer senior Madisyn Williams said she didn’t know the class existed until recently, but it has helped her decide what she wants to do.

“I thought I wanted to do criminal justice, but when they offered that class, I took it, and I decided that I think I would like teaching more than that. I think if they didn’t offer that and I went to college, then halfway through, I would have to change everything, and I probably would have been there longer.”

Cherokee senior Macy McDavid said the experience this class provides helps people to know if teaching is for them.

“If students didn’t get the experience, they might think they would like teaching, but once they’re actually there, then they might not enjoy it as much,” McDavid said.