Emaleigh Hall (Appalachia '16) talks about teaching 8th grade science near her hometown
February 10, 2017
Growing up in Martin County, in eastern Kentucky, was not always easy. My whole life I had people tell me that if I wanted to be successful I needed to get out of here and move to somewhere bigger and better. As I got closer to my graduation day from Morehead State University, I became more conflicted about this sentiment. I felt like it would be a form of betrayal to leave the place I love and call home. Moreover, I simply couldn’t leave my Mammy (grandma) behind.
I started looking into TFA and I loved the notion that I could make a change where I grew up. I decided to apply and I got accepted to TFA-Appalachia. I had never been south of Kentucky before this past summer when I traveled to the Mississippi Delta for the Summer Institute training. There I got to interact with so many different people, which I had not had the opportunity to do before. I worked from sun up to sun down, pushing myself to be the best I could be, to bring back all of this newly-learned information to my hometown. It was the hardest time of my life, but it shaped me greatly. It is my wish to see eastern Kentucky grow, and I truly believe that our youth take us to higher levels.
This is why I have enjoyed becoming part of the Bulldog Family at Louisa Middle School more than anything. Teaching is such a challenging, but rewarding experience. You couldn’t have told me at this time last year that I would cry many tears and laugh many laughs over my eighth grade students. The most challenging part has been to try to navigate new science testing and standards. You really don’t know how much behind the scenes work teachers do when you’re on the other side of the desk. The biggest lesson I have learned in my first year of teaching is to be adaptable. There is so much that happens between planning your lesson and executing it. You have drills, assemblies, and major drama (c’mon, it is middle school). Sometimes what you plan doesn’t work out the way you had anticipated. You have to be able to read a room and act accordingly, so that the “meat and potatoes” of the lesson is still brought out. My students always keep me on my toes and never let me get too big for my britches but the most rewarding part has been to have students come to me with their biggest secrets, worries, and fears. I am proud that I have been able to connect them with the right people to help them.
As a first year teacher, you don’t have much spare time. Most people assume that if you’re from Kentucky, that you love the outdoors. However, for me, a good shopping trip or movie night is so much more satisfying. I usually spend my time off planning my wedding and hanging out with my family—especially my seven-year-old cousin, Brianna, who is my Maid of Honor.