“From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have always had a love for children and being around children. As I got older, if someone were to bring up education, ‘Athens State University’ is immediately what you would hear. My mom was a graduate from Athens State, and she always had positive things to say, so I knew going forward that it was the place to attend in order to follow my dreams of being an educator.
“I graduated from Athens State University in 2014 and got my dual degree in elementary education and collaborative education. When I came to the student-teaching portion of my degree, I had to do a special education portion at Piney Chapel, which is one of our county schools. I had a great experience there, and then I transitioned to Athens Bible where I was able to teach 1st grade for my teaching experience. Being able to see the public side of Athens within the community and how things worked, as well as the private section of the school systems, allowed me to learn how they were incorporated in different ways.
“Athens State definitely does a great job in helping educators be prepared. It’s not just going to class, doing course work, taking a test, and leaving; the professors at Athens State really take the time to tell you about their experiences, and it’s nice to have a view from someone who’s been on the inside, not just straight from a book. Looking back, I also loved the size of the classes, the one-on-one time with the teachers, as well as the flexibility. I loved that I got that intimate time with the teachers and my classmates. We all got to know each other, which made the whole experience more meaningful. Overall, I just feel like when I chose Athens State, I chose people who cared about me, who were going to help me get my degree, because it’s more than just a school.
“Around Christmas time in 2014, I had just graduated, and I stepped into a leave of absence kindergarten class and was there for six months and had a wonderful time. At the end of that year, I waited around and received a couple of different offers from various schools, and by late summer, I received a call from the principle at Athens Bible saying that they had a 5th grade position open. I taught 5th and 6th grade history and grammar.
“Currently, I teach at Athens Bible School as a 4th grade teacher. This is my fourth year teaching. Being a teacher is way more than just coming in and teaching your students the various subjects. You wear so many hats! Not only do you come in as an educator, but then throughout the day you are also a nurse, a referee, and a mom to some of these children. I think that is part of the reason I chose to be an educator – it wasn’t just because I loved teaching kids, it’s because I wanted to help our kids’ futures. They are our future! And I want to make sure that they’re in good hands and I can help students become who they’re going to become.
“Walking into a classroom and seeing all the students get excited about something that they remembered, or when you’re reviewing a subject and you see that lightbulb go off for the first time and they get excited, it makes being an educator incredibly rewarding. For me, and for most educators, it’s more than the job itself; it’s the look a student gives you when they remember how to spell words, or when they come in and they saw something historical over the weekend and tell me about what they remember learning. Seeing those moments make my job completely worthwhile – it is everything that I always wished it could be.”
—Elizabeth Winland, Athens State University education graduate of 2014 and Athens Bible School teacher