2027-that was my year, WAS being the operative word. It all started in 1994-well, actually it started when I was in elementary school. I had a fantastic chalkboard in my room, lined up my stuffed animals, and taught all day long. My oldest friend (she’s not quite a fan of that label) lived two blocks over; she had a whole wall that was a chalkboard and our classroom was all set up! Stephanie and I made up teacher names, had text books, and even had “telephones” in our rooms, which was unheard of in the 80’s!! We were the coolest teachers in the school! Skip 15 years and I had my very own classroom. N.C. State had prepared me to teach math and the dork inside of me jumped in head first. I taught one year in Williamsburg and then headed to Manteo High School. I was 21 when I first started and I have distinct memories of the geometry class I was given filled with 18 year olds who just wanted to watch the time pass.
I’ve worked with so many inspiring educators-Caroline Pearce showed me how to love our teenagers in their best and their worst, Arty Tillett reminded us that “It’s All Good”, Allison Sholar believed in my creativity before I did, Toni Ann Rasch, in all of her New York accent glory, showed me what it meant to never give up, on students AND in life, John Luciano taught me the importance of making “dater” based decisions and taught me to always volunteer to drive to conferences in DC, Marie White always bragged about her “love of math” helping counsel students every chance she got-once you heard “Check, check, and check & rock on”, you knew you and your student would be taken care of. Anna Thomas inspired me to look for greatness within students I wouldn’t ordinarily think to look and oh yeah, to recycle, and Darana Ruhle showed me what dedication was all about and how NOT to pay a $70 copay. My math crew from over the ages taught me to hold my head high even as we sport the quadratic formula or pi-day fun on our mathy t-shirts, Susan Blackwell energized me as she bopped in and out of my classroom always putting her student’s best interests first, Carol Sparks showed me how to challenge students without breaking them, Suzanne Pack always inspired me to try new activities and lessons in the classroom and convinced me that UNC fans weren’t that bad, Jimmy Metzinger helped me up my game to teach higher level classes and proved to me that Forest Gump lives, John Houston taught me what it means to always have each others’ backs, how to keep PDA out of our hallway, how to never have to use my own tape, and taught me to make sure no one calls him a DORK , and my “only friend” Erin Paraska, well, there’s just not enough space to go there-my twin teacher, my math contest partner in crime with Rose…one day we will live on Lighthouse Row together! There are so many others; our MHS faculty was always more of a family away from home!
I have had the pleasure of teaching the most amazing students who have gone on to become veterinarians, welders, dentists, personal trainers, engineers, fishermen, teachers, deep sea divers, nurses, mechanics, contractors, and just amazing citizens. Last week, I cleaned out my classroom. I’m truly not sure what was harder, that or chemo!! As I dove into my files, the flood of students and memories came rushing back. I literally have folders of all of my kids’ grades dating back to 1994! As I was cleaning, my assistant principal walked in – her eyes met mine and we couldn’t hold back the tears. We talked about our passion and what it meant to us and then I walked over to those files – Fall 2000, Algebra 2-Drew Hudspeth and there were her grades! Three of our now Manteo Middle School math teachers’ grades are in those files-Kelsey, Hannah, & Stevie, I can’t wait for Drew to have each one! My boys have already had several elementary school teachers in those files, Sherree and Esther were two of my special ones. Coach Timmy came by Jake’s graduation party having coached him from 7th grade on – yup, Fall 2006 Algebra 2 file. Coach Levi is next to coach Drew at the middle school-circa 2008ish! I open up my Facebook and see a sweet soul, Tshombe, landing a position singing at The Met in NYC (The Superbowl of Opera), hmmm, Fall 1998-ish, Algebra 1…..love you to “sideways eights” and beyond. Speaking of the Super bowl, let’s talk about the Super Bowl of math. Being asked by a professor to work on research as a NC State sophomore math major, Everett, class of 2018, can truly boast of being the brightest and most talented math mind I had the pleasure of teaching. Kelly brings her kids over to play in the sound and we talk about my hair growing out and making an appt with her to get my first trip since chemo soon, Circa 2006 files. My fellow bada$$, Ginger and I are working to start a support group for our little area; as she lands her first nursing job, after beating Hodgkins Lymphoma for the second time, I think back to her file, Fall 2014-ish-Algebra 2. The list goes on… my crazy fun neighbor, Elliott, who is now our local veterinarian, Meghan, who, poor thing. had to listen to all of my advice from her freshman year to her senior year…..but so happy for her now! I think about Josh, whose high energy would often land him in the halls during class is now using that energy to energize others as a personal trainer in Atlanta, Ryan, my surgical radiology nurse during my kyphoplasty treatment, every UPS driver under 30 in Manteo, and of course, Danuel, who will live our hearts forever with his infectious smile. I had the pleasure of watching Will and Jake’s friends and teammates come through MHS and see them go from the little kids in the back seat on the way to little league games to young adults getting into colleges, heading to the military, and jumping into the workforce. I’ve loved every minute of it! It’s so fun looking back because you can choose to only remember the good parts if you want. The stress, the long hours, and the “fun” of just handling teenagers over all seems to take a back seat to seeing the people they have become. I am so grateful for our precious MHS students! I treasure the “Mrs. Brown”‘s as I am walking through the store or sitting in a restaurant and have even had quite a few sing the quadratic formula and do the slope dance long after graduation. I have taught brothers and sisters and even kids of kids I had back in the day. Now, THAT will make you feel old! HA! I guess the moral of the story is, teachers, remember, when people ask you what you teach, you tell them, “I teach kids, a little math (or insert your subject/grade) on the side.” You are making a huge difference in lives where you don’t even know it. A “hi” in the halls, “great game last night”, or “wow, what a solo in the band concert” are words that you and I may think are second nature but leave a lasting memory for those in your classroom. I can hear Houston now, “Wrap it up, Brown” and pointing to his watch…I can’t help it. I just love it all.
The week prior to packing up my room, Susan, my cheerleader and mathy fellow teacher-friend who is just as dorky as me, drove me to Greenville for an appointment. She was so patient to help me talk my way through it all and upon returning, I truly felt like I could tackle it and roll. I went in the next few days sorted through my room filling up 6!!! trash bags. But as I kept packing, I could only seem to handle a couple of hours a day then I’d have to clear my head by the water and get my toes in the sand. As I was leaving one particular day, my gem of a friend, Wendy, called simply because I was on her mind, and reminded me that no matter what, God’s purpose for us is the same but how we fulfill that purpose can change. She says change is hard but know that His purpose for you is strong. I was back on a roll until the last day when it hit me. Feeling like a complete wimp through all of this after hitting my limit once again, my phone lights up with a familiar “walk?” I’m not sure if Jenn realizes the importance of that message coming through at that exact time, well, actually she does because her faith is strong. God puts people in places at just the right times sometimes and this was that time. She didn’t talk me down but instead just listened as I cried and talked about how mad I was that I was having to pack up at all. We talked and walked and about two miles in I felt a comfort just knowing that I had a fellow teacher friend that could relate to how hard it was to stop teaching. As God likes to do, we turned the corner on the downtown docks and there stood T’shombe fishing off the docks! We laughed and laughed as we reminisced about his love of algebra class and “sideways eights”. As we were getting ready to leave, I asked him to sing one of his songs from the opera he performed in NYC. He filled those docks with music and my heart with a new feeling of hope! I messaged him later to let him know how significant our run in was— he said “your students love you to infinity and beyond” – now that’s how to hook a math teacher!! Kenneth helped with the final cleanup, as he always does swooping in to save the day at just the right time, and loaded the three boxes filled with my 25 years into the truck.
I had plans but cancer changed them. I was retiring in 2027 when Drew graduates, walking across the stage with him to hand him his diploma, and throwing a killer party to celebrate both the graduation of our youngest child and my retirement – easy, a plan, that’s what I like! After going back and forth for a year and at one point just putting my foot down and saying, “Yes! I’m going back” , I have come to the realization that although the flood of memories energizes me and fills my tank slam to the top, the exhaustion of the day to day grind is not what my body can handle at this point. As I say all the time, “I’m doing GREAT”, but I want to keep doing GREAT!!! What can I say, teaching is in my blood like salt is in my husband’s as a fisherman. I can’t get away from it completely so I look forward to tutoring, helping kids with college and scholarship applications, and, of course, finding ways to stay close with my MHS sports teams! Sorry, Sport, Timmy, and Alfie, you can’t get rid of me that easily!
They say once a teacher always a teacher, right!? But I know, each year when school starts, I will mourn the loss of a part of me that makes me who I am, the teacher part,…… and then, I’ll go to the beach!🌞🌊