January 5, 2012 10:45:00 AM
They say good teachers are born, not made. But some teachers -- sometimes the very best -- take a circuitous route, trying everything and anything before settling on the one thing their hearts were called to do.
That was the case for the Columbus Municipal School District's 2012 Teacher of the Year, Rashean Hyde, a third-grade teacher at Stokes-Beard Elementary Technology and Communication Magnet School.
Hyde's hands flew and her eyes sparkled as she sat in her living room Wednesday afternoon and talked about life, love and the career that has brought her so much joy.
For most of her years, she thought she wanted to be a nurse. She pursued her accounting degree at Mississippi State University and a nursing degree at Mississippi University for Women.
But no matter what she did, she kept coming back to the same quandary -- she really loved children. And most of all, she really loved teaching children. So she changed her major from nursing to education.
If she had her choice, she admitted, she would be in her classroom at Stokes-Beard right now, but she's facing her third bout with colon cancer. It spread to her liver, and she's taking an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy to shrink the mass so she can undergo surgery and have it removed.
On Nov. 29, she said goodbye to her class and headed home for what she expects to be the remainder of the school year.
But that's not what she wanted to talk about Wednesday. She wanted to talk about the students she's known and loved and the things she believes are important for their education.
She is a two-time recipient of Teacher of the Year at the school level, but receiving the districtwide award came as a surprise, especially now.
Hyde believes what distinguishes her is the special interest she takes in children, doing things that often their parents either can't or won't do.
Just another day as a teacher
She thinks back to one girl who was living with grandparents and lagging far behind grade level. Hyde spent extra time with the child, finally getting her into a special education class. She picked her up and brought her to school. She took her to the library. She took her out to eat so she could have the experience of eating in a restaurant. She took her to the skating rink to have fun.
By middle school, that student no longer required special education resources. She is a student at Columbus High School and doing well.
Hyde said she considers such effort a part of her job. She's always willing to come to school early, stay late and do anything necessary to make it possible for parents to meet with her. She gives out her home phone number, her cellphone number and, if necessary, her home address.
"The important thing is this is not about me or (the parent) but the child and what they need and what we can do to help," Hyde said.
She strongly believes the role of a teacher is not to pour information into the students but rather to facilitate so they develop critical thinking skills and become lifelong learners.
"I really hope they take what they've learned and make the right choices," Hyde said.
She lives to see a child's eyes light up when he or she finally understands material that had previously been a struggle.
"Times like that, you say, 'I'd do it all over again,'" she said.
Hyde's colleagues described her as a motivator with a zest for life and learning and said she has an uncanny knack for being able to reach children.
"Mrs. Hyde has a true passion for teaching and learning," district Interim Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell said. "She is an inspiration to all who know her, and she is very deserving of this recognition. Mrs. Hyde brings excellence every day to the classroom, where she holds high expectations of all her students."
Teaching completes Hyde, Stokes-Beard teacher Sue Craddieth said, and her mind is always working to figure out new strategies to help her students learn better.
"Her heart breaks when a child needs more than she can give," Craddieth said. "Mrs. Hyde has been chosen to teach, and she understands her need to fulfill that privilege."
As for Hyde, she doesn't know what she would have done if she hadn't followed her heart and become a teacher.
"I would be an incomplete vessel wandering the seas," she said. "Whenever asked what it is that I do, I boldly stand and proudly state, 'I am a teacher.'"
Hyde's name, along with the names of the state's other district Teachers of the Year, will be submitted for consideration for the state title. Winners from each state will then compete for the national title.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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