Kathy Haynes has worked at J.D. Davis Elementary School for 19 years. The Title I school receives extra money from the government to make sure that students at risk of failure and living at or near the poverty level have the opportunity to excel.
Haynes took some time to answer our questions about her teaching career and personal life. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
J.D. Davis Elementary School is known as a Distinguished Title I school. What does that mean?
It means we don’t have failing test scores and we’ve made the AYP (annual yearly progress reports) every year for the past five to six years. We haven’t been in the “needs improvement” for eight years.
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Why is it important for a school to make AYP?
We use that (test scores) as one of the indicators that tells you that you are a successful school.
What standardized tests are required for elementary school children?
The Georgia CRCT (criterion reference competency test) that is required by the state for third-to-fifth grades. A minimum of 95 percent of each class must take the test. Another is a writing test.
How can you help the children prepare for standardized testing?
Drill and drill and drill. We have an after-school tutorial program. I check to see if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
How can parents help their children prepare for standardized tests?
That’s so hard, especially here. A lot of people here undervalue education. That’s why I encourage my girls to keep studying. I tell them that women can’t do anything without an education.
What does your average workday look like?
I get to school at 7 a.m. My first class is at 8:15 a.m. I have lunch at noon-12:30 p.m., but I rarely eat lunch. On Friday from 8:15-10:30 p.m., I have a planning period with other teachers. The students go to either the computer lab, music or art. If I’m really lucky, I get home at 3 p.m., but it’s usually 4:30 p.m. I’m in bed by 10 p.m.
Why did you choose to become a teacher?
I really love children. I have teachers in my family. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to help people. I am a change-of-life baby so my brother and sister are 16 and 14 years older than me. I was able to read before I was in kindergarten.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your teaching career?
The most challenging is working with special needs children. They need so many things like parent participation and concern. The most rewarding is seeing them be successful and they don’t need me anymore. Sometimes they come back and tell me what they’ve done with their lives. I had one come back and tell me that they couldn’t have done it without me. I make sure that they know that there is someone who cares about them. And I know I’ll have someone who will invite me to have lunch with them in the White House.
What sacrifices have you made in order to be a successful teacher?
It’s not really a sacrifice. I enjoy it. Before I became a teacher, I prayed and prayed to God to send me to a school that needs me.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your 19-year career at J.D. Davis?
We had rotating principals for a long time. We couldn’t keep a principal. Then we had Pauline Talley for seven years, now Mr. (Joseph) Myles seems like he’ll stay. It’s very stressful to leave for the summer one year with one boss and then come back and get a new boss.
What advice would you offer to young people interested in becoming teachers?
I’d tell them how very rewarding and very challenging it is. And that you can’t make someone learn. But you can make it interesting. They have to tell the students that a good education is the best thing they can do for themselves.
How has technology (computers, cell phones, iPods, iPads, etc.) impacted the classroom both positively and negatively?
It has had a great impact and kids love it. But text language is showing up in reports. The fifth grade students have to take a writing assessment test, which is state-mandated. I tell them that I know what you mean, but I’m not grading the tests and you have to use proper English. We work on that from the beginning of the year until we take the test in March.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Reading, especially about history. I don’t have a lot of time to read, except during the summer. I recently learned stonemasonry and am working on my pump house, covering it in stone.
If you hadn’t become a teacher, what career path might you have followed?
I would rescue animals from abusive situations.
How do you maintain a balance in your career and in your personal life?
It’s kind of hard, so I try not to take a lot of it home. I do grade papers at home and do my lessons plans, but I try not to whine and complain at home.