Ms. Stephens Don't Take No Lip
If high school didn't totally suck for you as a teenager then chances are you probably had a teacher as incredible as Elizabeth Stephens. It takes a special person to identify with the hormonally challenged - especially when their main method of communication is fighting or emoticons. Read on to find out why Elizabeth and every other teacher in the Atlanta school system are HBIC worthy.
How did you get started being so awesome as a teacher?
Aww shucks… I wouldn’t call myself an awesome teacher, but I try. I suppose I thought about becoming a teacher during 6th grade. I had the most amazing teacher who actually made school fun, and gave me some much needed confidence as an awkward 11 year-old. That school year absolutely changed the way I viewed myself and gave me a unique appreciation for education. Since then, becoming a teacher was always in the back of my mind. It’s also in my blood. My grandmother was a teacher for 30+ years. She was known for her wicked “you better cut that out” face. I hope I inherited that.
I always wanted to do a job that made a positive impact on people’s lives. I love that my job gives me that opportunity on a daily basis. Teaching also gives me an outlet for my creativity. It’s never boring. Imagine putting 30 kids (still going through puberty) in one room for an hour. There’s never a dull moment.
How do you stay inspired?
I teach at an inner-city school that is constantly being pressured by higher-ups to meet test scores, graduation rates, etc. Many of our kids come from some really difficult situations and need extra support from an under-funded school system. Staying inspired in our environment can be really difficult if you don’t really love what you do. I love my job and I love my kids. The students who come to school willing to try everyday despite what’s going on at home keep me going.
What advice do you have for people wanting to become a teacher?
Don’t be afraid to be tough. Don’t forget that students (male and female) look towards you as a role model. Don’t forget that every day should be treated like a blank slate. Don’t forget how awful you acted in your teens, and how amplified your emotions felt. Don’t forget that you too had an awkward phase.
You're on a desert island - what 3 things are you bringing?
1) Big ol’ box of wine.
2) My dogs
3) All my Hanson CD’s (boom box included)
What are you top Atlanta finds and favorite places?
I really love how Edgewood Avenue has grown over the past couple of years. Church is my favorite place to find some religion. I also tried The Optimist for the first time last weekend. If you love sea food and have some extra cash, it’s definitely worth the money.
What’s next for you as a teacher?
Honestly, surviving this school year will be a huge milestone, but I’m also really looking forward to Jonathan Richman playing the Goat Farm this February.
Give us some words of wisdom:
When it comes to our country’s debate over education, listen to the teachers. These are the people who spend a majority of their time working with students and they know what works. Listen to the teachers.
If a teacher makes a difference in your life, be sure to tell them. It makes everything worth it.
Everyone goes through an awkward phase. Be kind.
What’s the craziest thing that happened to you at school?
I had 5 fights in my classroom the first two months of teaching. Not in the hall… not in the cafeteria. IN MY CLASSROOM. I felt like a referee for a while.
I also had a student cuss me out one day, and call me his favorite teacher the next. Teenagers….
We love you, do you love us?
You guys are the best. As someone that spends a lot of time with teenagers, you keep me cool.