The Carrollton City Schools Education Foundation wrapped up its annual Golden Giving fundraising campaign in early September. Golden Giving is a simple way community members can make a one-time or recurring donation to support the foundation’s program areas which include scholarships, classroom grants, and field trip experiences. The foundation’s current focus is to support more field trips for students who cannot afford to attend. There was a “Gold Out” celebration at the first home football game on Sept. 2 to close out the three-week campaign. A projected $35K was raised from community members through committed recurring or one-time donations. Currently, more than sixty percent of employees give each month to Golden Giving. Each employee and community member enrolled was entered into a raffle at the Gold Out event. Pictured from left are raffle winners Katie Cantrell, Amanda Harvey, and Drew Ebensberger.
Carrollton Elementary School Teacher of the Year Tamara Wooten poses with some of her students. From left are Hannah McWhorter, Lawson Carter, Braelyn Cosby, and Kalani Dorsey.
Wooten cites own experience in establishing her future
As she worked in fast food restaurants as a teen-ager to help her family get by, Tamara Wooten faced the same dilemma many others before her had experienced – a dull, aching feeling that her life did not hold any hope of breaking the cycle of poverty she inherited at birth. But what she did have was the mettle to not let it determine her future because of it, but in spite of it.
"I grew up in a household where basic needs were typically not met," says Wooten. "As the oldest child, contributing to the household became part of my responsibility. I spent the majority of my high school years working to help care for my three younger siblings. When I would look at my surroundings, I saw little hope for my future."
Wooten credits strong teachers who became her role models who helped her understand that her best opportunity to break out of this cycle was through furthering her education.
"I knew I had to work diligently in school and create my own success," says Wooten. "This was not just a motto I lived by, but one that I had to instill in my siblings. I refused to let our life stories end the way they had started."
Wooten says when she reflects on these teachers, she realizes their influence has had a tremendous impact on her own teaching style.
"I found the hope I lacked at home in their examples," she says. "Their passion for teaching directly impacted my passion for learning. I was experiencing the joy they had for teaching every day. I know and now live by the expectation that every student deserves that same commitment. Every student deserves that passion. Every student deserves that hope."
Wooten, who teaches pre-kindergarten students, says many people believe that a teacher cannot have a lasting impact until a child is older. But she disagrees.
"Many individuals believe Pre-K is nothing more than playtime," she says. "But I know that I am charged with one of the greatest challenges of all. It is my responsibility to give every child their very first opportunity to excel in school. My attitude and approach impacts their earliest beliefs about personal achievement. I want my students to know that their story is not written. They are not bound by the challenges of their situations. Early classroom experiences help determine whether a student looks positively upon school or as a burden. I have the opportunity to orient my students positively toward school and instill beliefs that can stay with them not just throughout their education but their life!
Wooten’s impact on her students – as well as other faculty members – led to her selection as Carrollton Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2022-2023 last spring. She and Teachers of the Year for other district schools – Michael Harvey, Carrollton High School; John Megathlin, Carrollton Junior High; and Stefnie Crites, Carrollton Upper Elementary School; are now vying for the district honor to be announced next week at the Oct. 4 Board of Education meeting.
Stefnie Crites, a fifth grade ELA teacher and Teacher of the Year for Carrollton Upper Elementary School, poses with some of her students. From left are Rosie Reid, Preston Bagby, Bentley Hardeman, Willis Herman, & Braylen Dodson.
Crites credits third grade teacher as her inspiration
Everyone has a favorite teacher, and for Stefnie Crites, it was her third grade one, Miss Doyle. In fact, Miss Doyle's impression on her was so great Crites decided to emulate her, model her classroom style, tell exciting, vivid stories to help her students learn – just like Miss Doyle.
"It was in her room that I gained a strong foundation in many specialties, but I truly believe that her masterful weaving of the standards is where I gained my love of integration," says Crites. "I began to understand that students learn through stories, even if you have to create one! I am forever grateful to Miss Doyle for being my inspiration and helping to build the confidence I needed to battle those doubts that told me that I was too far behind and would never make it."
Never making it was her fear because Crites started out studying to be a veterinarian and becoming a teacher was the last thing on her mind. But her newfound revelation came during a stressful time – actually a panic attack – during a chemistry oral exam.
"I somehow managed to muddle my way through it knowing the entire time this was not my path," she recalls. "My mind whirred with excuses – 'your parents will think you are crazy! You have no experience in the field! You have been planning to be a veterinarian since the third grade!' Nonetheless, Miss Doyle tiptoed into my consciousness."
Crites, a language arts and social studies teacher at Carrollton Upper Elementary School, also learned from Miss Doyle the art of the storyteller or, the more formal term, the orator.
"Public speaking is not a favorite of students," concedes Crites. "However, I understood that from my own insecurities in public speaking, it is important to create opportunities for understanding. No matter the path, students should leave the classroom a better orator than before. I knew that if they were encouraged to be creative and allowed to bounce ideas off each other in a safe and respectful environment, it would not only be a hit but it would also teach a skill that would serve them for years to come!"
Crites’ impact on her students – as well as other faculty members – led to her selection as Carrollton Upper Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2022-2023 last spring. She and Teachers of the Year for other district schools – Michael Harvey, Carrollton High School; John Megathlin, Carrollton Junior High; and Tamara Wooten, Carrollton Elementary School, are now vying for the district honor to be announced next month.