The Sun News

Q&A with Raymonia Mathis

City of residence: Byron

Occupation: Teacher, Fort Valley Middle School

Q: A new school year started and kids are in the classroom--but what did teachers have to do to get ready for a new year?

A: Everything from making sure the classroom is physically ready and the textbooks and supplies are there to making sure lesson plans and student rosters are set. There are so many things to think about.

Q: Physically, what is there to do?

A: Make sure you have enough desks, for one thing. Make sure you have enough of the right textbooks and that all your supplies. I’ve got my Clorox wipes and do a lot of dusting and wiping. For me, I was teaching something else in a different classroom last year so I had to make sure all my furniture and supplies got moved across the school OK.

Q: What did you teach then and now?

A: I taught remedial math before and this year I’m teaching sixth- seventh- and eighth-grade advance content math.

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: I’m going on my 11th year. Teaching is my second career. My undergrad degree was in accounting and I spent five years working for the state. Then I just had to teach. I love education.

Q: And apparently it was a wise choice: you’re Peach County’s teacher of the year, aren’t you?

A: That was such a surprise to me and such an honor. I started teaching in Macon first then came back to my hometown here in Fort Valley to teach middle school in 2009. I love teaching.

Q: What’s so rewarding?

A: Seeing students achieve what they thought they couldn’t. Seeing them learn it’s OK to make mistakes but then work through them and see what can be done. Seeing them get to the next level. My first group of students from here have graduated high school now and I went to their graduation. That was really rewarding. And knowing some are in college, that’s great.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in teaching?

A: Getting new students each year and trying to learn each of their different learning styles, knowing you can’t teach everything the same way to everybody. It’s interesting seeing how students you’ve had before have matured each year and getting to know the new ones. No two days are the same for a teacher; you have to be flexible. That’s a challenge but can make it fun.

Q: Back to getting ready for the year, what’s the teacher pre-planning week like before the year starts?

A: You do your own preparation, the work in the room and making sure your lesson plans are ready and meet any new requirements for the year. You get student rosters and start seeing who you’ll be teaching. Plus, there’s a countywide faculty meeting, faculty meetings in your own school with teachers and the administration, there are department meetings among teachers for different subjects and then there are grade-level meetings to go to.

Q: A lot to pack in a week. You teach math, but then you have to go to all three grade-level meetings you teach?

A: There are a lot of meetings, but it’s usually good and gives us chances to help each other out.

Q: What do you expect from fellow teachers and school administrators?

A: For all of us to be able to collaborate and work together to do what’s best for our students. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to prepare them to be successful at the next level.

Q: What do you expect from students and from their parents?

A: I expect my students to come in and be open to learning new things, things they might be afraid to try at first. I like to help take away the intimidation factor and let them see learning, learning math, can be fun and school can be fun. I like to try and make it relevant for them.

Q: And from parents?

A: Be involved. When we have parental involvement, when they’re able to work with us and with their children it’s always for the best.

Q: As an award-winning teacher, what’s your advice for new, first-year teachers?

A: Plan, plan and over plan -- but also be flexible when things don’t go as planned. I read a book -- I can’t remember the title -- but it was about being an effective educator and it said to remember it’s not about programs, it’s about people. It’s about your students and they are people. I agree. You should always keep your students in mind, right at the top of your priorities no matter what else is going on. Always remember they’re the reason we’re here.

Q: Is it going to be a good year?

A: Of course. I’ll do everything I can to make it the best year ever.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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