In the Very Beginning

December 2, 2020

As early as I can remember, I was a teacher. When I was young, I even asked for a chalkboard for Christmas so I could teach my imaginary students. However, my family struggled with money and nonessentials were not on our list-not even for Christmas. However, my passion for teaching would continue.  

I continued to teach my students -who were made from stuffing and cloth- in the room that I shared with my mom. I marched around pretending to read books that I had memorized or simply made up as I went along. I wrote on my pretend chalkboard, and I asked each student questions as we celebrated everything that we learned. Bunny and Woody the Woodpecker led our reading groups and even though my students were cloth bodies, I loved those cloth bodies. In that little room, the present was ever so present. The poverty that lurked just outside that little room was nowhere to be seen or even felt. Little did I know that I was already a teacher and a person in training.

For, you see, I lived in an area of poverty, but there was still a hierarchy. Although I did not realize what this “hierarchy” really meant as a child, I certainly felt it. All I wanted was acceptance; my neighborhood was diverse, but I was still the odd puzzle piece. Interestingly enough, school was where I found my acceptance. Just as I felt present in that little room where I taught my stuffed animals, my teachers made me feel that same way. Mr. Richmond made Langston Hughes universal, Mrs. Cowardin made Pipi Longstocking’s adventures bigger than life, and Mrs. Boston made me believe in myself as she cheered me on in the spelling bee. I just had to be a teacher. I had to be like these wonderful role models who did not realize they were actually mentors.

As my home life became more complicated, school continued to be that “constant” that I needed. I moved to live with my dad; beginning school in a new state was intense, but school made everything worthwhile. Mrs. Snow read Maya Angelou’s poetry, The Good Earth, and The Outsiders to the class and I was absolutely mesmerized by the strength and resolve of these characters. I wanted to bring characters to life like Mrs. Snow and I wanted to be like Mrs. Snow- welcoming, approachable, and accepting. 

Looking back, I never once doubted becoming a teacher. Nobody ever told me that I could not become a teacher because I could not afford it. I became the first one in my family to go to college and I never take that fact for granted. I am thankful to be a teacher and even more thankful to be a National Board Certified Teacher. I want my students to feel as safe and accepted as the stuffed animals that I taught in the very beginning.  

Moreover, if you are wondering, I did get that chalkboard-only it is a whiteboard. I use it each day. I do not take that whiteboard for granted nor do I take National Board certification for granted. I welcome new learning opportunities and I appreciate the National Board and the renewal process for continually allowing me to reflect on the progress I have made as a teacher and a colleague. Additionally, each student I serve is a new beginning and our classroom remains that very constant of trust, collaboration, and positive transformation.

Renee Woolard, NBCT

Woolard a graduate from East Carolina University with a BS in English. She has worked at Chicod School (K-8) for 13 years and earned her National Board Certification in 2011 for English, Early Adolescence. She has been accepted into the Teacher Leadership Program in our county and moved to D.H. Conley High School. The Teacher Leadership Institute paved the way for her to become a Facilitating Teacher. As a Facilitating Teacher, Woolard is part of a Community of Practice that focuses on a Problem of Practice for our school while maintaining my classroom teacher position. She renewed her National Board Certification in 2020. Moreover, she is the mother of two college boys-Gage and CJ - wife to Raymond, and dog mom to four beautiful rescues named Lily, Dixie, Buddy, and Beagie.