Teacher of the Year: Courtney Mathena followed in father’s footsteps to become teacher

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NW0407 Teacher Of The Year Courtney Mathena A

Teaching is a family tradition for Courtney Mathena, who has worked at West Side Elementary for the past 16 years teaching in several grades.

The Elizabethton School Board recently recognized Mathena for her efforts by naming her the pre-K through fourth-grade Teacher of the Year for West Side Elementary. She was also named the systemwide elementary-level Teacher of the Year. 

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Erwin taught third grade this year and has previously taught first grade, fifth grade and kindergarten.

“I just always wanted to be a teacher,” Mathena said. “My father was a teacher, so I guess it was always in me to be one. I would always play school with my little sister.”

Mathena, a Carter County native, attended school in the Elizabethton City School system. She first went to East Side Elementary, then T.A. Dugger Junior High School and Elizabethton High School. She earned her degree in education from East Tennessee State University and then returned to her home school district to teach.

As a third-grade teacher Mathena covers English, language arts and reading in her classes. Teaching the younger students allows Mathena to bring two loves of her life together.

“I love children, and I love to watch them learn,” Mathena said. “I love reading and stories, and I get to bring the two of them together in my classes.”

While teaching reading and the language arts to her students, Mathena strives to create many unique experiences for the students so they will have a better connection with the story.

“Children learn best through experience,” she said. “I want to create experiences for the students to attach to the things we do in class. I want to teach to the needs of each child. I have a lot of small group sessions.”

Mathena moved to become a third-grade teacher this year from the first grade where she had taught before. As a third-grade teacher, she is able to focus on English, reading and language arts lessons for the third-grade students all day instead of teaching many different topics as the younger classes do.

“Being able to focus on English and language arts all day is great for me,” she said. “I love these topics, and I get to work with them with the students all day long. I love when a student finds a story they really enjoy and they make a connection with it.

Mathena’s colleagues at West Side nominated her for the Teacher of the Year honor. She is a repeat winner, having been named Teacher of the Year before when she taught first grade. She was also selected to be Teacher of the Year for the elementary grades this year.

“I think it’s an honor,” Mathena said. “To be nominated by my peers is important. It means a lot to have the respect of your coworkers. We do have to work together and we share the same children.”

Mathena’s students agree with the decision to name their teacher Teacher of the Year.

“She is an awesome teacher,” Nick Davis said. “She is nice and she teaches us. She is really funny.”

Another of Mathena’s postive attributes is her choice of sports teams, Will Churchill said.

“She likes the Pittsburgh Steelers, so that is great,” Will said. “She’s a really nice teacher. She teaches us reading and she is really good at it.”

Caroline Price described Mathena as her favorite teacher.

“She is very nice and very sweet,” she said. “She is my favorite teacher the whole time I’ve been at West Side. She’s really fun. I have definitely learned a lot with her.”