Teachers love helping, uplifting students

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By Blenda Copeland

Diana Malcolm: Teacher advises others to do what they love

Diana Malcolm is among the ranks of scores of teachers who are making a difference each day in the classroom.

A Physical Education (P.E.) teacher in the Russell County School District, Malcolm is in her 11th year of teaching for the county.

“Each and every day is challenging,” Malcolm said of her job as a teacher. At the high school level, she said you cannot rely on events of one day for the events of another.

You’re trying to instill good values in students: to be young, respectable individuals.

One way Malcolm does that is by trying to stay current with what methods reach a student best – whether it’s music (learning set to rhythms) or by knowing what’s going on in today’s era and relating it back to an educational value.

As for the impact she’s making, “I hope that some of the stuff that I say to (my students) is something that they can use,” she said. She strives to teach her students life skills that they can use later on in life, whether they are coming through playing sports like tennis, golf or even through the lessons of maintaining personal fitness.

Regarding her career in teaching, Malcolm said she thinks it’s important to work in the field that you’re most comfortable in.

“My high school coach inspired me because it showed me how I wanted to do better. I was athletic; I played all the sports.”

After a year of studying psychology, Malcolm turned to studying P.E. Now she’s the head coach of girls’ basketball.

Malcolm taught two and a half years in Pike County, and she remembers the legacy she left there. “Something that I did must have been positive,” she said. Her sister also taught there, and students often confused her sister for Malcolm, relaying messages of her effectiveness as an educator.

Now, after 18 or 19 years of teaching, Malcolm said “I still love what I do.”

“Just do what you love,” Malcolm said. “If what you love is teaching, then go for it. The students will benefit if you’re happy where you are. That’s what I choose to do: to let the students benefit from my happiness.”

Malcolm is in her third year teaching at Russell County High School.

Nettie Harris: Top teacher creates right chemistry for learning at RCHS

When it comes to veteran teachers who’ve made impressions and still continue in the path of excellence, Nettie Harris is among those who’re part of a positive chain reaction.

Harris teaches human anatomy and physiology as well as Honors Physics at Russell County High School. She was recently among six Russell County teachers honored for their top notch teaching as teachers of the year, and she also is has special distinction as this year’s Secondary Teacher of the Year for the Russell County School District.

Harris said she was inspired to join the field of education through her chemistry teacher’s inspiration. He had expert content knowledge, a sense of humor and was very enthusiastic, she said.

Initially, Harris was studying at Columbus State University to go into teaching secondary level chemistry. She spent 23 years as an office aid/bookkeeper for a public school system. During that time, she constantly had a vision of herself in a white lab coat with her name embroidered on it.

“You just kind of push it aside, but constantly, this vision would appear,” Harris said.

In time, Harris went back to CSU and completed her bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching area. By summer 2013, her husband prompted her to inquire about a teaching position in Chattahoochee County, Ga. Her first teaching job was teaching fourth grade. When she eventually left the position, “Guess what the gift was?” Harris said. “A white lab coat. And the principal said, We’re sending you to the high school.’”

Harris has always had a dream of teaching chemistry. “I know it was God,” she said. “It was destined for me to do what I’m doing now.”

Harris said she stays motivated through the fact that she cares about her students’ progress and about them as individuals. “I believe that every student can learn,” she said.

While each student learns at a different pace, she gets to know her students individually. That builds trust, which in turn produces the right chemistry in the classroom for learning.

As for the impact that she hopes to make in her students’ lives, Harris has already had the pleasure of hearing a returning good report.

Two or three students have come back to see her and said they really enjoyed the rigor of her class, which prepared them for college. She has also received emails thanking her, because the student said, “I’m the only one who knows what’s going on” in their college level courses.

This is Harris’ fifth year teaching in the Russell County School District. She previously taught 10 years in Chattahoochee County, Ga., and before that, worked in the superintendent’s office in Stewart County, Ga., for 23 years.

Stories by Blenda Copeland