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Teacher Feature of the Week – Carolyn Mills

Posted on Friday, March 29, 2024 at 5:00 pm

Teacher Feature of the Week

Carolyn Mills is an English teacher at MCHS. She looks forward in seeing the paths her students take after they graduate

As a little girl, I can remember playing school all the time. On my desk at home, I had a class roster that consisted of my friends and family as my students. My second grade teacher, Denise Baxter, would give me the extra worksheets in class, and I would take them home for my students. I spent so much time teaching all of the things my students needed to know. Of course, at some point, this playing stopped. Fast forward to high school, my math teacher, Coach David Steely, told me I would be a teacher one day because of how well I helped my classmates. I laughed and assured him that I definitely would not. While I rejected his thought, I never forgot it.

After graduating from Marshall County High School, I moved to Murfreesboro and began college at Middle Tennessee State University. Growing up, I had always said I was going to be a lawyer, so I chose Political Science as my major. During my first year, I became interested in Criminal and Child Psychology and changed my major to Psychology. I had the sweetest Sociology teacher my sophomore year, and one day she told us about teaching in public schools before becoming a professor at the college.

As she talked to us, her love for teaching was so apparent, and I suddenly thought, “Maybe I want to be a teacher!” While I wondered what I was going to teach if I changed to that route, I realized that English was my strongest subject in school. Plus, I enjoyed reading and helping others revise and edit their papers. So, I called one of my high school English teachers, Beth Smith, and asked her if she thought I could do it. After she assured me I could, I changed my major to English and my minors to Secondary Education and Psychology.

During my junior and senior year, as a full time student and part time employee, I also became a mom and wife. There were many nights I got little sleep, especially when I started student teaching. However, when I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor’s Degree as Magna Cum Laude, I was so proud and knew the long days and nights were worth it. From this experience, I always tell people to just stay determined when times seem overwhelming. I assure them that it is a great feeling to look back and think, “I don’t know how I did it, but I did.”

When I graduated high school, I never dreamed of walking back in there at age 23 as an English teacher, but I did! When I decided to teach, MCHS was certainly the school I wanted to be at, but at the time, job openings were rare, so I know that I was very lucky to start my teaching career at MCHS. My first year was full of nervousness and excitement! It seemed weird to be working with my former teachers, but I was so fortunate to have them to guide me because college just does not prepare teachers for so many things involved in having a classroom.

I started my Masters in School Counseling online at the University of Western Alabama after my first-year teaching. I had no desire to leave the classroom, but I knew it was best to go ahead and pursue this degree instead of waiting. I viewed School Counseling as a job I might want later in life, but, honestly, this degree has also helped me over the years with my students.

This school year is my 17th year teaching. Throughout these years, I have been involved in Student Council, Renaissance, Cheerleading, and other various roles at the school. Being involved in extra has always been important to me. While my involvement has changed, one thing that never has is my passion for teaching.

During these 17 years, there have been many modifications to education. In high school English, the standards, curriculum, and tests have shifted multiple times. Unfortunately, these changes have been made by people who are not in education. While I have always implemented what is required, I still do my best to make my classroom mine. I feel this is what allows me to connect with my students and teach them on the days they may not care about the lesson. Let’s be honest, sometimes high school students have those days. I connect lessons to the real world and other subjects as much as possible because I want them to realize that so much of what they are discussing and learning in English class can be used outside of the classroom. Regardless of the many required changes that have happened, I always give 100% in creating an environment that students want to be a part of during their high school years. I know that if I want them to learn from me, they must know that I care about them. I strive daily to let them know I do. When they enter my class, they become my teenagers!

It is so rewarding to see students succeed in class whether their success comes from the start or after many attempts. After having them in class and watching them continue to become young adults, my favorite moment is watching students walk across the stage on graduation. I have always encouraged and pushed seniors to be a part of this once in a lifetime ceremony if they had doubts. Over the years, I have had several tell me later that they were glad they took my advice and walked.

When these graduates leave high school, it is such a joy to see the different paths they all take in life. I love seeing my former students at various places or having them stay in touch with me. Many of them have even transitioned from my student to my friend. I hope that I played a positive role in their lives and the adults they have become.

A benefit of being a teacher that I had not thought of when I first started was getting to be a part of my own children’s high school years. My oldest, Caden, graduated last year, and there were many moments at school that I will always cherish being a part of with him. Next year, my middle son, Cullen, will enter high school, and I look forward to many of the same times with him. My youngest, Collier, is in kindergarten, so it will be a while before he is in high school. However, I’m sure I will still be at MCHS when he starts.

Teaching may not have been what I thought I would pursue when I entered college, but I am so thankful for my Sociology teacher that inspired my sudden change. I have loved every year at MCHS and ALL of my students and coworkers.

Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger!