Teacher Spotlight: Whitney Loughry

One of our first School Partners was Colorado’s Horizon Middle School, who recently named Language Arts teacher Whitney Loughry as their 2013-14 Teacher of the Year. Here’s what Ms. Loughry had to say about her experience as both teacher and student.

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The Cherry Creek School District has played a key role in many of the most important moments of my life.

It was in a Walnut Hills Elementary School classroom that I cemented a deep and enduring love of reading. It was in a Campus Middle School classroom that I learned the value of kindness and compassion. It was in a Cherry Creek High School classroom that I found my calling as a teacher and met my future husband. It is in a Horizon Community Middle School classroom that I am now privileged to teach each day.

Long before I stepped foot in Walnut Hills Elementary School, I was taught by my family to think deeply and read widely. My family boasts a number of educators, mostly at the collegiate level, and a strong belief in the value of education.

Beyond that, though, my family believes in deep critical thinking and the joy of language. I was raised surrounded by books and with frequent trips to public libraries and bookstores. I was never denied a book, and I asked for a great number. My mother and stepmother were certainly never without a book nearby and as I grew older, they began to share what they read with me. Reading the books recommended by the women in my life was perhaps the greatest rite of passage I ever experienced.

My father taught me a love of beautiful language as we listened to music with poetic lyrics from CSNY, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, and many other singer/song writers. Together we reveled in the language and talked through the poetic devices and meaningful word choice. Before I even entered school, I learned that words carry great power and can bring great pleasure.

I remember my time at Walnut Hills with great fondness. The very idea of going to a place that included a library every day was enough to sell me on the idea of school. That I had a string of excellent teachers who clearly communicated their love of knowledge only helped matters. Mr. Shawn Poole remains in my memory as a teacher who inspired me and made learning exciting and enjoyable. From him I learned that reading is more than just undeniably fun.

Although I have clear memories of both elementary and high school, middle school remains only as a blur. Perhaps this is a blessing as I now know firsthand that middle school is often a time of awkward adjustment. From my years at Campus Middle School, my strongest memories are of the kindness teachers like Ms. Megan Fox showed me as I blundered through the challenges of growing up. She included me in a book club for girls where we read and also talked about how to grow up with some degree of grace.

As a student at Cherry Creek High School, I had a huge variety of classes to choose from. I was lucky to have a wonderful guidance counselor who suggested I work as a student intern in the school’s Intensive Learning Center. In the ILC I met Vivian Hagler and her special needs students and learned a great deal more than I would have in any other elective class. I helped students as they developed essential life skills. I saw students struggle with skills I took for granted and persevere when success seemed unlikely. I watched as Vivian and her para-educators exercised a phenomenal degree of patience and compassion.

I became aware that although school and academic learning had always come easily for me, it was not the same for all students. This student intern experience also gave my first paid job as an after school caretaker for some of the ILC students I worked with at school. It was in the ILC that I first realized I wanted to help students like Vivian did and become a teacher.

Cherry Creek High School prepared me to be successful when I enrolled at Colorado State University as a Secondary English Education Major, and after college, I took a job teaching English in Japan. Although the company I worked for in Japan promptly went out of business, the experience opened my eyes to the many privileges I enjoyed. Being a cultural outsider, even for a short time, helped me prepare to return to Colorado and start my career as a middle school teacher.

I was hired at Horizon Community Middle School in the middle of the school year to help deal with an unanticipated spike in enrollment. Teaching has been the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life. Each day that I walk into my classroom, I know that I will be met with unexpected challenges that I will often try and fail to meet. I also know that I will find a deep sense of meaning and value in that work that I do.

Teaching is a job that follows me home at night and over summer break. I can no longer view the world without thinking as a teacher. I see learning opportunities as I walk through the grocery store and watch television. I am reminded of my students as I read for pleasure. I am grateful to be a teacher of children.

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