Beth House, a ninth-grade English and broadcast journalism teacher at Montevallo High School, was honored on December 6 by the Shelby County Board of Education and the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation as the 2022 High School Teacher of the Year.
House has taught for 19 years, 13 of which have been in the Shelby County School District. She has taught at Montevallo High School since 2018.
Her leadership roles at Montevallo High include serving on the Continuous School Improvement Committee and Problem Solving Team. She also serves as the United Way coordinator, Peer Helpers sponsor, Scholar’s Bowl coach, mentor teacher, and mentor teacher coordinator. Additionally, she coaches two sports – cross country and tennis.
House said one unit of study that captures what she endeavors to do each day is her yearly study of the classic book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” House said the overriding theme of the novel is to see the world from another person’s point of view. This theme lends itself to very productive and heartfelt conversations with her diverse students who really seem to connect with the novel – despite its setting being over 90 years ago.
“For example, my students don’t always have the skills to diffuse their anger in difficult situations,” House said. “When we talk about seeing Tom’s escape from the point of view of the prison guards at the jail, they often change their perspectives. Taking difficult issues and tying them to a novel allows my students to detach and think through real-world issues they may have in their lives through a different lens.”
House said her students often tell her this novel is the first piece of literature they have studied that confronts some of the harsh realities in our world.
“There are more current stories and novels that I share with my students throughout the year, but when they realize that their struggles are not new struggles, it seems to really open their eyes,” she said. It makes them not feel alone, and a part of a larger mission.”
House said her core belief as a teacher is for her students to be good humans. House said she believes the lessons in empathy in the novel transcend time and history. Once her students read everything in the book and see things from the various characters’ perspectives, their eyes are opened to the need for empathy in our world.
“I see their looks of shock, disappointment, and finally peace,” she said. “As we finish the novel, I hear their desire to know more, read more, and experience more. And, that tells me I am succeeding in my mission to help my students be the best humans they can be.”
House said she is honored to have been able to reboot and create projects that continue to impact the school culture and the community at large – the journalism program and the peer helper program called Dawg Impact. She was instrumental in re-energizing the nearly extinct journalism program and implementing industry-grade equipment that was funded using a grant from Lhoist.
“The updated equipment started a snowball effect,” House said. “Once students saw what they could do in my journalism class they were excited to register for the course. There is always positive energy among the student body when a video is released. Our community also enjoys the videos we share, which means the positive culture extends beyond our school walls.”
House said that she believes teachers feeling supported in and out of the classroom is one way for them to not only stay in the classroom and teaching profession but to also thrive. One way that she creates a healthy work environment is to build strong relationships with her colleagues, students, and the Montevallo community where she also resides.
“The connections I build with my colleagues are invaluable because they provide friendship and a strong professional learning community,” she explained. “The connections in my classroom help me to reach my students and meet them where they are emotionally and educationally. My connection to my community as a trusted and respected neighbor allows me to communicate with parents in a way that is different than teachers who live outside our community.”
“These relationships help me to build a strong connection to all of the stakeholders in my school and community,” she continued. “I believe these relationships are what help me stay energized and enthusiastic about teaching despite all of the other challenges.”