Each of these teachers have taught for 20 plus years and have touched the lives of many students who have come through the halls of Guntersville Middle School. They are retiring effective the end of this school year.
Laura Womac is retiring from her 7th grade math position. She has been teaching since her mid to late 30s. In the years prior to her retirement, she has taught reading, Title 1 reading, computer and math.
She said what made her want to be a teacher was substituting. After her fourth child was born, she stopped working and substituted. It was really enjoyable and she could see herself in a teacher’s role. She decided to go back to school and get her degree.
She graduated from UAH with an undergraduate degree in accounting and her masters is in elementary education from Jacksonville State.
Earning a degree with what is called the Fifth-Year program, she said that she built on the accounting degree that she already had. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked for a science and engineering company in Huntsville and stopped working once her third child was born.
She said that her favorite thing about teaching is working with the kids and seeing them when they are understanding the concept or watching them make progress. She explained that seeing the “light bulb” moments are the best.
Womac started her career at Cherokee Elementary School teaching Title 1 reading, but her favorite subject to teach is math. She explained that the reason math is her favorite is because it is more objective and it is easier to see if someone has obtained the skill. Reading is harder to determine if the student understood the material being taught.
She said that reading is harder to teach because it is tough to practice some of the curriculum and harder to determine if the student truly understands that area of reading. She did love teaching reading, but she prefers to be able to see her student’s progress.
“Math is very straightforward,” she said. “It's very black and white; you either get it or you don’t.”
One thing that she will miss when she retires is her peers. She said that she will miss the friends that she has made teaching. She also believes that she may miss the routine of the classroom.
She said that one of her reasons for retiring this year is because of her elderly mother. Her family is all pitching in to help her mother and she is looking forward to spending time with her. She also has a lot of grandchildren that she will be taking care of as well.
Patti Hancock taught 8th grade history and has been teaching for 25 years. She has been at Guntersville Middle for 22 of those years, but before that she was in Clay County High School. She taught 8th grade American History and 7th grade English. She was in Clay County for two years and DAR one year before her move to Guntersville Middle.
Just like Womac, Hancock started teaching when she was in her mid to late 30s.
In the past 25 years, she has taught American history, English, reading and Title 1 Reading. Her favorite to teach was 8th grade history, but if you were to ask her 25 years ago, she would have said American history. With the curriculum change it is now ancient world history and she has fallen in love with it.
She said that when her son started kindergarten, she decided to go back to school as well. She had no idea what she wanted to do, but she loved her history class and her history professor suggested she go for education. She still keeps in touch with her history teacher today.
She went to Jacksonville State University and obtained two degrees from there. Her BS degree is in education with a history and English concentration and her master's was in library media.
Before she became a teacher, she was a stay-at-home mother. She did some catering and cake decorating on the side. This gave her a love of cooking and has continued her love for cooking to this day.
Her favorite part about teaching was when she was able to incorporate a lot more things into her curriculum. She said that they uses to have food days. She explained that the kids loved these days because they made food from all over the world and throughout different time periods as well.
The students would be so excited that they would take plates to every one of the teachers. They made a big deal out of it and even the parents would be involved in the cooking process.
Hancock is looking forward to retirement because she does not like getting up at 4:30 in the morning and driving all the way from Cullman. She said one positive about the drive is that she has grown to love audiobooks on her way to work.
Over the last three years, she has learned to make fudge, she said. Her sister and her sister’s husband own the popcorn store in Cullman known as Kernel Kullman and she hopes that she may be able to volunteer some at their store.
With cooking being a passion, she would like to volunteer for Meals on Wheels. She said that they took real good care of her mother after her mother had a stroke and she wants to use her experience in a kitchen to help them prepare meals.
She said like Womac, her mother is not doing well and she has had to move her in with her older sister. She is looking forward to spending to time with her mother.
“I think it is special to be going out with these two,” she said. “We’ve been here together and have become friends.”
Jane Latimer has been teaching for a total of 32 years. She has been at Guntersville Middle for 23 years teaching science.
She wanted to become a teacher because she had been teaching all of her life. She said that she used to play school with her chalkboard, stuffed animals and anyone she could talk into being in her class. She would do her homework on her chalkboard and then copy it down on her notebook paper. She would pretend to teach school using her homework. She remembers fondly working on it in the carport.
Just like the other teachers, she also had a late start in her teaching career. She said that she has been teaching since she was around 30.
Before becoming a teacher, Latimer was a customer service representative for an insurance agency in Charleston, South Carolina.
When she went back to school to become a teacher, she obtained a BA degree in English and geography from Jacksonville State University, a teaching elementary certificate from the College of Charleston which is Charleston, South Carolina, and a master of science in elementary education from Troy State University at the Phoenix City campus.
She started her career as a teacher aide at Carlisle Park which was the old school that is now Guntersville Middle School. She taught there for three years. She taught remedial reading and remedial math for two years. After that, she taught 6th grade science.
She taught 4th grade in Phoenix City, Alabama, and then one year at Union Grove where she taught 5th grade writing and science.
She said that in between Phoenix City and Union Grove, she was the teacher’s aide for three years. After Union Grove, she moved to Guntersville Middle School and has been teaching 6th grade science ever since.
She said that her favorite subject to teach is 6th grade science. She loves being interactive with the students. What she teaches is very hands on and many times you are able to see the light bulb come on while the student is learning.
She explained that she teaches in steps and stages. What she means is that the students have seen it, touched it, read about it and experienced it so in the end they should be able to say that they get it.
After she retires, she said that she is going to garden, read, continue canning vegetables and making salsa. She said she plans on swimming a whole lot and not get up at 4:45 a.m. everyday.
When she misses children, she said that she will have her fix because she has a few friends who will allow her to come into their classrooms and volunteer. She plans to do mini-science lessons and holiday activities with the students.
“It has been a fun ride,” she said, “but it is time to go.”
The ladies agreed that they needed to set up a date and time once a month to keep up with each other. They are planning on meeting for lunch or doing something so they do not lose touch with one another. They are all looking forward to retirement, but they know they will miss the students and their peers.