Beth Huckabee’s first few weeks of teaching were a crash course on the importance of class size limits.
“It was a disaster!” Huckabee, this year’s Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year and TSTA Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award winner, said.
“I waltzed into a situation with 40 percent repeating students. I had six classes, five preps and a seventh period health class of 42 students,” she said. “I went home crying the first six weeks.”
As a high school and college student, she had the opportunity to help teach her peers, and she enjoyed it so much that it shaped her career path, but this was very different. “Failure was a new experience and an excellent tutor,” Huckabee said. “I learned that knowing the material was not enough. I needed to know my students.”
Fortunately, her principal, Ramiro De La Paz, recognized the futility of trying to teach 42 students; he divided her health class in half and taught the second class himself.
“Suddenly instead of ending the day frustrated, I was able to teach. I would never have gone back that second year if it hadn’t been for him,” Huckabee said.
With her classes finally at a manageable level, Huckabee gave herself an assignment: to learn something about every student. “My goal became to visit with each student every two weeks about something that really interested them. I also incorporated real world examples that affected them into my presentations.”