“Teachers Make a Difference”

A Gratifying Moment as an Educator

By Jim Ferguson, Chief Academic Officer for High Schools

“What do teachers make?”

I have heard that question answered many times over the years.  One answer I have heard is that they make less money than all other professionals.  I heard someone say that teachers “prepare their students for all other professions.”  In a well-known poem, Taylor Mali wrote that teachers “make a difference.”  I couldn’t agree more with Mali as I reflect on what I experienced at the 2014 New Teacher Orientation in DeSoto County Schools.

As I stood in the Commons at Hernando High School and watched all the new DeSoto County Schools’ teachers begin to move to the next meeting place, I saw several familiar faces who had agreed to join the greatest profession in the world.  I saw Shelbi Heaton, a 2009 graduate of Horn Lake High School and new ELA teacher at Southaven Middle School.  I saw Andi Cordell, ELA teacher at OBMS, and Juan Acevedo, Social Studies teacher at LMS, both of whom are 2010 graduates of Horn Lake High School.  Walking closely behind those new teachers was Kimberly Woods Sandlin, a 2004 HLHS graduate and the new Community Based Teacher at LMS.  Beside her, I saw Ashley Martin Godwin, a 2003 graduate of HHS and a new ELA teacher at LHS.  I had the privilege of teaching Ashley and was the Principal of HLHS when the other four graduated.  Some very strong emotions came over me when I saw these former students.  I was thrilled to see each of them but even more excited that they were about to begin their teaching careers in DeSoto County.

Later that evening, I began to reflect on what all that meant to me as an educator.  I began to think what the culture and environment of our school must have been like for all of those students to want to become teachers.  I began to think of the teachers who were on my teaching staff that made a difference in their students’ lives every day.  I thought of the joy that filled the lives of the teachers that must have been evident each day.  A love for students that was present in the classroom and hallways even when it wasn’t a happy time.  I began to think of the quality of instruction and the knowledge that was imparted daily that might have encouraged those students to become teachers.

I also began to reflect on all the good times we provided to build relationships and facilitate a love for our school and community.  Students were challenged to serve their neighborhood, city, and county through JROTC, theater events, Principal Leadership and Intrinsic Development (PLAID), Youth Councils, and many more.  Teachers were celebrated often with “Rice Krispie Teacher of the Block”.  “Starburst Teachers” were recognized by their own students.  Celebrations of individuals like Super Bowl Champion Brandon Jackson and a 100 year Celebration of HLHS brought our school and community together every year.  Three years of “Eagle Day” brought our entire community together to spotlight education and the great things going on in Horn Lake.  As I reflect, I am not at all surprised that I got to see so many former students joining the education ranks.  These students were influenced by some of the greatest people and teachers in the world.  These former HLHS students and new teachers were provided one of the best educational experiences anywhere in the world – an experience that any of us would want for our own children.

“What do great teachers and great schools make?”

Great teachers and great schools make the next generation of great teachers!  I am filled with gratitude in knowing that I had some small part in producing the next generation of teachers that will influence the children in our schools.  I am confident these new teachers will continue to provide a school culture and learning experience that is second to none.  DCS will be in good hands for a long time.


Teachers Make A Difference Teachers