Teachers share goals for upcoming school yearBy Emily Beckett Published 5:30pm Monday, August 11, 2014
Clanton Middle School teachers Warrene Chaney and Courtney Smith are both ready to meet their students and start the new school year Wednesday.
With classrooms decorated, lesson plans written and schedules set, they just need students to teach.
Chaney and Smith are approaching the school year from different points in their careers.
Chaney, who will teach English language arts to eighth graders, has logged more than 20 years as a teacher.
“The students I’m teaching now, I taught their parents,” Chaney said. “I enjoy what I do.”
For Smith, Wednesday marks the first day of her first year teaching.
She will teach sixth-grade math and language arts.
“I have always loved working with children and seeing the look on their faces when they are pleased with their work,” Smith said. “I have been preparing for this day for the last four years, and I am ready.”
Smith, a Chilton County native, attended the University of Montevallo and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education.
Chaney was born in Maplesville and graduated from the Chilton County Training School in 1961.
She earned a Bachelor of Science and master’s degree in secondary education from Alabama State University.
Chaney’s teaching career began in Germany, where her husband was stationed for several years in the United States Army in the mid-1970s.
Chaney taught GED English, math, history and reading and writing prep at the Army Education Center in Neu-Ulm, Germany.
“I never thought I would have been hired to teach military people,” Chaney said. “Every place that I’ve gone, I’ve always been able to get a job because I had a degree. I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
After she and her husband moved back to the U.S., Chaney worked as a receptionist at a mental health facility in Michigan.
She moved back to Chilton County in 1984 to be closer to family.
Chaney started teaching in Verbena in the 1990s and continued for nearly 10 years.
“The camaraderie there was just beautiful,” she said. “I just love people, really. I know this is what I was called to do because I enjoy it.”
Chaney worked at the former Henry M. Adair School for about a year and then transferred to CMS after the new building opened on Temple Road, behind Clanton Intermediate School.
“I love my students, and I love my coworkers,” Chaney said. “I enjoy what I do. Every year I’m learning.”
Chaney said she is not afraid to change the ways she presents lessons to her students.
“My lessons are not written in stone. I critique my lesson plans, and I look at what worked and what didn’t,” Chaney said. “It’s a challenge every day because a lot of times what you have planned, you always have to have a backup.”
Chaney considers her students’ interests when planning activities for them to do in the classroom.
For example, she lets students form raps or cheers with the parts of speech.
“I am a flexible teacher,” Chaney said. “I use many strategies. I want them to be able to problem solve and think outside the box.”
Chaney also stresses classroom management from the outset, though.
She has rules posted on the walls of her room.
“I tell them what I expect of them and ask them what they expect of me,” she said.
Although Smith didn’t have much time to settle into her classroom before students’ arrival, she said having her own classroom was “absolutely wonderful.”
“I’ve only had one week since being hired to get my classroom ready; therefore, my main focus was on organizing and cleaning,” Smith said. “However, I added a little ‘happy’ to the bulletin boards, the door and the wall.”
Smith said she hopes to teach her students to always keep learning, never give up, never be afraid to ask questions, respect their classmates, try as hard as they can and do the best they can in everything.
“I look forward to having the time to really get to know my students,” she said. “The better I know them, the more I can teach them.”
Despite her long tenure, Chaney claims she is still learning and encourages her students to follow suit.
“I tell them, ‘You will be forever learning,’” Chaney said. “What I do, I try to model what I want them to do. I live in the present and enjoy every moment of my life.”
As school starts, Smith wants the parents of her students to know how much she values them.
“I want them to know that I truly care about each their child, and I will always challenge them to be the best they can be,” Smith said.
Over the years, Chaney has received thank you notes and greeting cards from former students telling her they appreciate what she taught them in school and the overall impact she made on their lives.
“I’m like, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’” Chaney said, holding a stack of handwritten notes. “I just thank them graciously and move on.”
Smith’s primary goal as a new teacher is similar to what Chaney has achieved.
“My mission as a teacher is to make a positive difference in the lives of my students,” Smith said. “I’m very excited and ready to get started.”