Carrollton Elementary School Teacher of the Year Tamara Wooten poses with some of her students. From left are Hannah McWhorter, Lawson Carter, Braelyn Cosby, and Kalani Dorsey.
Wooten cites own experience in establishing her future
As she worked in fast food restaurants as a teen-ager to help her family get by, Tamara Wooten faced the same dilemma many others before her had experienced – a dull, aching feeling that her life did not hold any hope of breaking the cycle of poverty she inherited at birth. But what she did have was the mettle to not let it determine her future because of it, but in spite of it.
"I grew up in a household where basic needs were typically not met," says Wooten. "As the oldest child, contributing to the household became part of my responsibility. I spent the majority of my high school years working to help care for my three younger siblings. When I would look at my surroundings, I saw little hope for my future."
Wooten credits strong teachers who became her role models who helped her understand that her best opportunity to break out of this cycle was through furthering her education.
"I knew I had to work diligently in school and create my own success," says Wooten. "This was not just a motto I lived by, but one that I had to instill in my siblings. I refused to let our life stories end the way they had started."
Wooten says when she reflects on these teachers, she realizes their influence has had a tremendous impact on her own teaching style.
"I found the hope I lacked at home in their examples," she says. "Their passion for teaching directly impacted my passion for learning. I was experiencing the joy they had for teaching every day. I know and now live by the expectation that every student deserves that same commitment. Every student deserves that passion. Every student deserves that hope."
Wooten, who teaches pre-kindergarten students, says many people believe that a teacher cannot have a lasting impact until a child is older. But she disagrees.
"Many individuals believe Pre-K is nothing more than playtime," she says. "But I know that I am charged with one of the greatest challenges of all. It is my responsibility to give every child their very first opportunity to excel in school. My attitude and approach impacts their earliest beliefs about personal achievement. I want my students to know that their story is not written. They are not bound by the challenges of their situations. Early classroom experiences help determine whether a student looks positively upon school or as a burden. I have the opportunity to orient my students positively toward school and instill beliefs that can stay with them not just throughout their education but their life!
Wooten’s impact on her students – as well as other faculty members – led to her selection as Carrollton Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2022-2023 last spring. She and Teachers of the Year for other district schools – Michael Harvey, Carrollton High School; John Megathlin, Carrollton Junior High; and Stefnie Crites, Carrollton Upper Elementary School; are now vying for the district honor to be announced next week at the Oct. 4 Board of Education meeting.