Q&A with Mitchel Ball

Mitchell Ball is a sophomore from Crossville, Tennessee attending East Tennessee State University. He is pursuing a major in history with a minor in secondary education. He intends to graduate in 2019.

Ball is also a member of the Well, a nondenominational campus ministry.

Q: What made you decide to be an education minor?

A: I really looked up to my basketball coach, who happened to be a teacher. He easily had one of the biggest impacts in my life. This was around my junior and senior year in high school, so from then on I wanted to be a teacher.

Q: What education classes have you taken thus far?

A: I’ve taken the introduction to the teaching profession. It was the most important simply because it gave me an in-depth look at what teaching will be like.

Q: How do you intend to run your future classroom?

A: I want to have a mixture of lectures and presentations to keep the kids’ attention in the classroom. I would also like to show some videos to reinforce the concepts being taught. There will also be group projects to get kids to learn how to work with each other.

Q: How do you plan on addressing behavioral issues should any arise?

A: I plan to be firm in the consequences I will lay out at the beginning of the year, whether that be talking the individual or harsher [punishments] such as office referrals or detentions.

Q: What is the most important thing you have learned in your education courses so far?

A: The most important thing I have learned is that I cannot teach each person the same way because not everyone learns the same way.

Q: What is the most important attribute of a good teacher?

A: The most important attribute a teacher can have is to always be [continuously] learning [yourself]. You never want to be that teacher that doesn’t know what they are talking about. It will always show through to the kids.

Q: Is teaching a calling?

A: Many people have that natural ability to help others in a way most people cannot. They have that ability get things across to others in a way that sticks with them for the rest of their lives.

Q: How do you feel about state testing?

A: I think state testing is a good thing because it gives the students something to work for at the end of the year. It also gives the teacher a great incentive to work diligently each day.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish after graduation?

A: I hope to get a teaching job in my hometown and eventually start a family. Lord willing, I can teach my own kids someday!


Q&A with Madeline McCool

Madeline McCool is a junior at ETSU studying special education. She is currently finishing up her practicum teaching at Liberty Bell Elementary School in Johnson City, Tennessee. McCool intends to graduate in May 2018.

Click here to learn more about the components of special education:

Q: How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a special education teacher?

A: I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a teacher. I started at ETSU thinking that I wanted to pursue nursing. It was my sophomore year that it dawned on me that I could not actually see myself doing nursing on a day-to-day basis. I took a couple of weeks and prayed and truly evaluated my heart and what I was passionate about. I had some friends growing up with exceptional needs, and honestly, I thought of them. I thought, “I would love to be a part of their day, every day.” So, the Lord told me to teach and pursue special education. I changed my major at the end of sophomore year.

Q: What age are you hoping to work with after you graduate? Do you want to be placed in Resource Inclusion or a Comprehensive Development Classroom?

A: From the first day of changing my major I knew I wanted to pursue a specific major of CDC in special education. During the second half of your first year of the program, you must decide. I would prefer to work with any age group between grades K-6.

Q: What kind of attitude or personality does it take to be successful with your students?

A: Well, I have had the benefit of learning what kind of attitude it takes within the classroom to be successful with your students through my part-time job this year at Liberty Bell Middle School as a Special Education Assistant. I have learned that the best way to gain respect and positive relationships with your students is to be compassionate, understanding, patient, diligent and consistent.

Q: What have your students taught you so far?

A: They have taught me humility and to have simple love and joy. We usually complicate things more than we need to in life. I am also reminded of perseverance every day. There are constantly going to be obstacles in life, but each day we must choose to give our best effort to conquer them, or let them defeat us. My students are strong and have an inspiring spirit about them.

Q: What do your professors teach you in special education courses that aren’t taught in a regular education program?

A: There are a lot of things that we are taught in the special education program that are not taught in the general education courses, but the main thing we discuss are students’ behaviors. We learn how to assess and observe student behaviors, how to identify the functions of those behaviors to assist the students learning and how to create a healthier learning environment for them. It is a very detailed process and consists of a lot of data collection. Once we collect the data, we use research-based interventions to help the student conquer those behaviors. We use this in the CDC classrooms and for the students who are included in the general education classrooms.


Q&A with Teacher of the Year Aaron Bible

Seventh grade social studies teacher Aaron Bible was voted Greeneville Middle School’s 2017 Teacher of the Year by his peers and administrators. Bible has taught at GMS since January of 2008, and is dedicated to serving his students.

Outside of the classroom, Bible enjoys playing music, watching University of Tennessee football and spending time outdoors. Bible and his wife, Ashley, who is also a teacher, live in Greeneville, Tennessee with their dog, Hank.

Q: Please give me a brief history of your time in the Greeneville City School System.

A: I had been teaching science at West Greene High School when a job teaching social studies at Greeneville Middle became available. I had done my student teaching here and loved the positive atmosphere, so I leaped at the opportunity to be a part of this team. I have been teaching and coaching [basketball] here ever since then, and this is where I hope to spend the rest of my career.

Q: Why did you decide to teach? Why middle school?

A: I was well on my why to law school in college when a science professor approached me and asked me to teach a computer class for senior citizens. I had never taught anything before and I hesitated to accept his proposal. After some consideration, I accepted his offer, and I immediately fell in love with helping people learn. I knew after helping seniors email their children that teaching was my calling in life. I chose the middle school age to teach because it was very close to my heart–very personal. My parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade, and they then proceeded to literally and figuratively to pull me through a traumatizing lake of drama. Indifference and misbehavior replaced my passion for learning in school. Now, I have the opportunity to save children from the same fate, and I can help students excel no matter their circumstances in life.

Q: What makes Greeneville Middle School special?

A: What makes GMS special is the students. I tell my students every single day that I am absolutely nothing without them. I would have no job, no future or no hope without the promise of their presence.

Q: Describe the atmosphere of your classroom.

A: I try to create an atmosphere of respect first and then try to make learning feel like magic. I feel like the imagination of the American teenager is being snuffed out by stuffy classrooms that weigh students down with rules and one worksheet after the other. Rules can be established when the lesson plan is so engaging that the students are more concerned about learning than misbehaving. I want students to run to my class with an eagerness to get in the door and learn.

Q: What’s your favorite part about being a teacher?

A: My favorite part about teaching is watching students learn. The satisfaction that comes from teaching someone a new skill fulfills my soul. I feel like I have a function or purpose in life, and that drives my passion to keep trying with each student that passes through my doors.

Q: Where do you find your greatest sense of accomplishment?

A: I find my greatest sense of accomplishment when students approach me years after they have left Greeneville Middle and tell me how much they loved being in my class. This lets me know that I had a major impact on the student’s life, and my hope is that they still have a love of learning new things. All of this is second only to having married my best friend and the most beautiful woman in the world [Ashley Bible].

Q: What is the most common thing your students/colleagues have praised you for?

A: I have regularly been complimented for my sense of humor and empathy for others. When I feel a sense of struggle or strife at work or in the classroom, I always try to understand how everyone else is looking at the situation.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted Teacher of the Year?

A: Being voted Teacher of the Year tells me that my colleagues believe in me and that they believe in my methods. I also believe you have to be a good friend to everyone you work with from the café staff to the administration. We have to carry each other as a staff to deal with the pressures of every day middle school hustle. To impose this idea on a global scale, we all need each other.

I believe there is a far more important obligation for receiving this honor and that is setting a standard. I hope that the honor I have received will lend me more respect and trust among my colleagues and that they will now find my recommendations more agreeable.

Q: How do you intend to continue a legacy of excellence in your career?

A: I will continue to view myself as a servant to my students. It takes a huge amount of heart and soul to be a servant-leader, but I feel like I am more effective as an educator in this role. Educators have to see past their classrooms and see the entire world. We need to give students more choices and relieve the feeling that they are forced into schools and learning; no one wants to be forced to do anything. If we can’t change this sentiment among students in our country, they will ultimately resent our educational establishments and then ultimately they will hate learning. I am going to change this.


Q&A with Jeremy Simerly

Jeremy Simerly is a special education and RTI teacher at Greeneville Middle School. He recently received tenure under a new state-mandated system.

Jeremy Simerly and Andrea Tolley

Q:  How many schools have you taught at?

A: I have taught at three schools: Dobyns Bennett High School, West Side Elementary, and Greeneville Middle School. Throughout my 11 years, I have taught several subject areas and held many roles in education.

Q:  What does tenure mean to you? How does it benefit you?

A: Tenure means a level of stability and a sense of accomplishment.

Q:  What did you know about tenure before you started teaching? Was it discussed thoroughly in college?

A: The things I witnessed about tenure and what I believe to be true about tenure are two separate things.  I remember witnessing as a student the teacher who was under the old system; felt that they had “job security” and became extremely complacent in their performance as a teacher.  This type of teacher made no effort to improve, nor were they worried about testing scores.  Throughout college, I can’t recall tenure being mentioned in depth very many times.      

Q:  Do you think you will remain in the Greeneville City School System? Why?

A: I want nothing more but to remain with the Greeneville City School system in any role that is seen fit in order to benefit students. 

Q:  What would be an incentive to move? (i.e. better pay, closer to home, higher test scores, etc.)

A: I have had the incentives listed above; (better pay – Dobyns Bennett High school), (Closer to home – West Side Elementary).  None of the incentives compare to what I truly have now at Greeneville Middle School, which is a sense of family and the system’s push to always be the best.  I have also had the incentives to return to former school systems; I am uninterested due to the level of satisfaction I currently have at my school.

Q:  Are you concerned about the fact that tenure is no longer a guarantee of your position?

A: I am not concerned about the fact that tenure is no longer guaranteed.  I am of the opinion that I should work hard each and every year; gaining the necessary skills and knowledge to be the best teacher for my students. 

Q:  Why do you think the tenure system was changed to include student performance?

A: I believe that student performance was added as the state’s level of reaching the top increased.  I think there is a sense of purpose and urgency by the state to increase student scores to compete nationally with other states. 

Q:  Are you in a tested subject area? If not, what criteria did you use to achieve the fourth and fifth level?

A: By teaching Response to Intervention, I am not in a tested subject area.  However, by teaching Special Education, I am required to take a percentage of the student scores in which I currently serve. 

Q:  Do you value tenure more now that the system has changed?

A: I wouldn’t say that I value tenure more now under the new system opposed to the older system.  I have the mindset to do the best I can each and every day for students; creating relationships, helping them grow academically, and showing them that I care.  By doing this, I believe that everything will work itself out the way it should. 

Q:  Do you think the new tenure system is fair? Why or why not?

A: I don’t necessarily feel that the new tenure system is fair.  I feel that with the lack of testing scores from the state, good teachers have not been able to receive tenure.  I also feel that while the new tenure system means teachers can lose this accolade, nothing is placed upon the old tenure system teachers.  All too often, some of these teachers have got to a level of being complacent, which has hurt education and our school systems.    


Q&A with Emily Couch

Couch worked at the Boys and Girls’ Club of Greene County, Tennessee last summer. I volunteered with her in the spring.

Emily Couch is a sophomore education major at East Tennessee State University. She is originally from Greeneville, Tennessee, and was home schooled until her freshman year of college. Couch decided to become an education major because she loves children and gained experience with them through the Boys and Girls Club.

Q: What made you decide to be an education major?

A: I decided to be an education major because I wanted to make a difference in students’ lives. I first thought about being an education major my senior year of high school and officially decided my freshman year of college.

Q: What education classes have you taken thus far? Which do you think will be the most beneficial in your own classroom?

A: I have taken Orientation to the Profession of Education, Foundations of Teaching, Exceptional Learners in Schools and Communities, Number Concepts and Algebraic Structure, Logic, Problem Solving and Geometry, Wildlife Conservation and Current Issues in 21st Century Literacy. I believe Current Issues in 21st Century Literacy will be the most beneficial because it has helped me learn how to teach the importance of reading.

Q: What type of students/subjects do you hope to work with in the future?

A: I would like to work with primary care and possibly [Comprehensive Development Classrooms].

Q: How do you intend to run your future classroom?

A: I want my classroom to be a place for learning and exploring. I want my students to love learning and to always be eager to grow their minds. I will use a lot of hands-on activities, along with lectures and participation.

Q: How do you plan on addressing behavioral issues, should any arise?

A: I will have a list of rules in my classroom that will be [reviewed] at the beginning of the year. Also, I will be sure the students know what is expected of them and what happens if they break the rules. I would first address the student, and then if that did not work, I would meet with the parents.

Q: What is the most important thing you have learned in your education courses so far?

A: That every student learns differently and that every student can learn.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most important attribute of a good teacher?

A: I think the most important attribute of a teacher is patience and compassion. A good teacher should love learning and be a good role model for her students.

Q: Many people say teaching is a “calling.” Do you agree with this statement?

A: I do agree with this statement. I believe teaching is a calling because you have to have certain drive or passion to teach effectively and come up with ways to teach children in a way they understand.

Q: How do you feel about state testing? Do you think it helps or hurts your students?

A: I think state testing hurts students because it’s based on a generic skill level and not the student’s overall knowledge. The student may struggle in one area but be completely brilliant in another, or he or she may not do well with that kind of test. [The students] might be different types of learners.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish after graduation?

A: I hope to teach at a local elementary school and help students reach their goals, encouraging them when no one else will.