Coulter Redding didn’t intend to become a teacher.
In fact, for several years of his life, he wasn’t planning to do anything that would require him to open books and read, let alone write and critique others’ writing. Yet one thing led to another, and somewhere along the way Redding rediscovered a love for reading and writing that prompted him to major in mass communication in college and became a reporter.
He soon discovered the small newspaper gig wasn’t for him.
“I got tired of covering high school basketball games and what I felt were silly events,” he said, “but I loved to write, and I thought, ‘Why not teach young people how to love to write too?’”
Redding went back for his master’s degree, was hired at Murray County High School, and is now in his seventh year of teaching English at the school. He was honored this week as the Teacher of the Year for Murray County Schools.
Principal Gina Linder said she was Redding’s cross country coach before he graduated from Murray County High School in 1999 and remembers him as the sweaty, red-faced kid she believed even then would achieve great things. She just didn’t realize teaching would be among them.
Now, Redding is the school’s Beta Club sponsor and coaches tennis as well as being a part of the leadership team. He also fills in as a ball game announcer when needed, she said, and is known around campus for playfully singing a quasi-operatic “Happy Birthday” to students and staff on their special days.
“He has fun with his students. He laughs with them,” Linder said. “He laughs at himself. He motivates them. He’s just wonderful. I can’t say enough about him.”
Redding’s wife, Stephanie, said her husband loves being around kids.
“He loves to get on their level to where they can actually get it,” she said. “He’s fun and goofy. He’s able to get their attention.”
Redding said his biggest challenge is finding time to cover all the concepts he’d like to go over while juggling state mandates for testing and other requirements. The most rewarding part of the job, he said, is being a part of helping students rediscover their confidence in themselves, like “when you see a kid that doesn’t believe in themselves anymore and you’re able to bring them back from the brink of disaster.”
That, he said, is even better than enjoying watching students learn something new for the first time.
To be eligible for a teacher of the year nomination, a teacher must have at least three years’ experience. Each school accepts nominations from the teachers, then the faculty votes on the top three nominees to select a winner. For the county teacher of the year, each school winner responds to seven questions and includes three letters of recommendation that are then reviewed by the Northwest Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency.
Teachers at the school level are awarded $500 in their paychecks, compliments of the Pepsi Co., and the system winner receives $1,000 for use in the classroom.
Teachers of the year from each school and the Murray Pre-K Center were treated to a candlelight dinner banquet at North Murray High School on Tuesday. Chef Clyde Rush and his culinary arts students prepared a dinner of grilled chicken, roast pork loin, salad with choice of dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade potato rolls, apple cobbler and pineapple upside down cake.
Superintendent Vickie Reed apologized for the fact the district has had to cut teachers’ paychecks — to the tune of six furlough days each year — because of state budget cuts and falling local property tax revenue.
“When times get better, hopefully we can remove those furlough days,” she said. “It’s not because we don’t value what you do in the classroom every day because we do ... Teaching, of course, is the center of everything we are about in our school system.”
About Mr. Redding
School: Murray County High School
Hobbies: Tennis, hiking, anything outdoors, spending time with his new son
Family: Wife, Stephanie; son, Jack, eight-and-a-half weeks
Years teaching: Seven
Education: Murray County High School (1999), bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Carson-Newman College, master’s in English education from North Georgia College and State University
Career goals: Obtain doctorate degree, move into a leadership position
Teachers of the year
Bagley Middle: Shari Canton
Chatsworth Elementary: Jodi Mealer
Coker Elementary: Tisha Mason
Eton Elementary: Judy Young
Gladden Middle: Leah Carroll
Murray County High: Coulter Redding
Murray County Pre-K: Sherri Higgins
North Murray High: Diana Gibson
Northwest Elementary: Deborah Swafford
Spring Place Elementary: Regina Mantooth
Woodlawn Elementary: Christina Richardson