By GRAYSON LEE MAXWELL
Rutherford County Schools
In this Q&A, Stewart talks about her recent economics award, her relationship with students, and how Stewarts Creek’s teamwork helps keep school moving forward.
Q: What is your position and how long have you been with RCS?
A: I am the gifted ed facilitator at Stewarts Creek High School. I have been here since the school opened. Prior to that I was at Blackman. This is my 19th year in the district. Before I started with gifted last year, I was the marketing and entrepreneurship teacher at both schools.
Q: What was your path to teaching?
A: I got out of high school in the 70’s in California and all I wanted to do was be a teacher. I didn’t do it at that time, I just kind of did life. I had multiple careers. I did graphic design and I ended up doing a lot of stuff with high tech in design and multimedia development. All kinds of programming and all kinds of accounting. It wasn’t good for me. When my son graduated from UTC I went back to school, graduated in two years and started working as a teacher.
Q: What do you like about working at Stewarts Creek?
A: We have a school model. It’s called “One Team” and it’s real. Everybody works together. It doesn’t matter what department you are in. It doesn’t matter what your rank is in the school — if you are an administrator or anything else. I’ve watched administrators empty trash. Everybody pulls together and does what needs to be done and treats all of the kids like they are theirs.
Q: What ways do you see those values of ‘One Team’ play out?
A: One of the best examples I have is quite frankly before the school opened. I was in charge of all the shops in the back of the cafeteria. I was trying to haul a big popcorn machine into the building. All of a sudden a man ran out from the library and said, ‘You obviously need help. Hold on a minute.’ That was the head football coach. I’ve never seen a football coach do that before. If you send an email here asking for support or asking if someone has something, you’ll get 50 responses within a minute. People will run it to you. It’s just a welcoming environment.
Q: Tell me about the recent award you received.
A: It’s the Lighthouse Award. It’s from the Council for Economic and Free Enterprise Education. There was a nominating committee and a pool of about 40 teachers in the nominations. They looked at several factors. My first comment when I received the award was that I don’t teach economics anymore. But they said you taught it for 18 years here. And you still are teaching economics to your juniors and seniors. I took my students on a field trip for public discourse at MTSU. I was awarded that day.
Q: What else are you passionate about?
A: I love my dog. I’ve got a greater swiss that is 10 years old and he’s my baby. I have seven grandchildren. My daughter-in-law teaches upstairs so it truly is a family thing here. I’ve had two grandchildren graduate already that went through my classes. I also paint wood. I do laser cutting and paint. It’s extremely relaxing.
Q: Any plans to stop anytime soon?
A: I’m still moving. Gotta keep moving. I’m beginning to think about what might be next but not yet. I don’t know if these kids need me. But I need them. We like each other. One way or the other, it’s a good relationship.