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Happy Valley’s Shoemaker teaches more than just curriculum

BY CARA MCCLOUD
STAR CORRESPONDENT
As COVID-19 continues, the teachers of the region do what they can to maintain normalcy while still inspiring and leaving lasting impressions in the youth they engage with. 
This week’s teacher, Mrs. Becky Shoemaker of Happy Valley Elementary’s UETHDA Head Start Program, expands upon her feelings of this to what parents can do to enable their children’s future for a higher chance of success.
Shoemaker’s education started in the region by going to Elizabethton High School to climbing her own ladder of knowledge with the next rung being ETSU and receiving her BS in PreK-3 and K-8 and furthering her rise by gaining her Master’s of Elementary Education. 
She had already begun her formative years working with Headstart in 1999 and returned to her origins of Carter County working at Hampton’s Headstart in 2001-2005 that led to Kindergarten for another five years. 
The calling of Headstart found her again being many children’s first representation of a teacher and schooling until 2015 when she transferred to Happy Valley Elementary to start her legacy she still carries on to this day with their Headstart Program. 
Her teachings have reached 22 years in total, 20 being in Carter County, and continuing as her love for the job grows as well, surprising no one that she is also the Director of the After School Program at Happy Valley.
Her beginnings of teachings were obvious to those who watched her grow and spread her wings as she was often told of how she spent many times in her youth teaching stuffed bears, animals, and dolls in her makeshift classroom she had built herself in her bedroom. 
Even at such a tender age, she had a yearning of enlightening those around her and being an example. 
Naturally one can imagine she drifted into the role many fulfilled growing up in the days of being the neighborhood babysitter or for friends and family finetuning early tricks and techniques to help with the young promising earnest children. 
Even after that, her first official job was working in the nursery at her church when she was 16 not leaving her post until education and scheduling conflicts prevented the continuance showing early on her dedication and not jumping from job to job.
This all undoubtedly alludes to how Shoemaker formed her ideals of how the beginning years are the foundational building blocks to a student’s future and a good or bad experience that early can determine if they correlate education with positive or negative connotations. 
Also being a part of the younger students’ journeys permits her the front row seat to how the range of growth can be so drastic between day one and the end while also being fascinated herself as she sees them discover what equally fascinates them as they begin to explore and understand the world.
Her love of teaching clearly exhibited itself at home instinctively but was also reinforced early by her own experience with her Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Margaret Hardin. 
Fate would have it that little Becky joined her last class she taught, and she abundantly fulfilled the role of teacher and more. Shoemaker would equate it to more of a feeling of a grandmother’s love than a teacher’s. 
This lady nurtured a spark in a little Becky regardless of her talkativeness, endless energy, and the fortitude of her refusing the necessity of naps to where she would instead rock her showing that teachers gift love as much as they gift lessons, grades, and sometimes detentions. 
Further along her education at Hunter Elementary her second-grade teacher, Jonnie Wilson, was overly kind and caring and exhibited how the job and life can be bridged and extend beyond the days of the school year when most would consider the teachers already preparing themselves for the next batch of kids.
As many successful people know mistakes and negative experiences can be just as much learning curves or lessons as Shoemaker sadly endured some not-so-great teachers educating her of how she wanted to be a more positive difference like her two favorite teachers. 
They ultimately loved their jobs to the fullest and knew they were in their calling and proudly Mrs. Becky loves the children and families of Happy Valley Elementary’s closed family-like network that many have boasted about. 
Truly letting families know there is a village surrounding their child or children that will help raise amazing adults.  She tries to keep up with as many of her students as she can once they have left the doors of her classroom and encourages parents that she is still available even then. 
She wants all students to know without a shred of doubt they are cared about personally whether that means being available to talk, picking up on things before they blow into bigger proportions upsetting or hurting the child, but also know she is always keeping an eye open for the one who may be trying to give the smallest of smalls cries of help. 
She gets to know what makes each student tick and lets them know early on she will always listen if they have a bad day and that moment is not definitive of who or what the child is at their core and never holds it against them. 
It will be addressed to show responsibility and then they move on exhibiting forgiveness and understanding. She makes sure they know they are loved which is clearly a mark of someone who genuinely cares about the child, their beginnings, and their educations even after their year with her is up.
Her teaching style of course involves the textbooks as all teachers implement but students love how Ms. Becky uses hands-on materials and when she can real-life situations. 
She trusts the lesson is deeper rooted and understood better as it teaches more and encourages exploration and inquisition. 
Activities are created that keep the students thoroughly invested while having fun as being actively engaged keeps students from realizing they are learning lessons because of the fun they are having. 
This tactic is a favorite of hers to try to implement as often as possible. This caring is why this pandemic is so hard for her because she is missing the in-person connection and learning to teach through video has been unique and challenging.
Photos and videos are sent in to monitor what the children are doing when not attending. To find a silver lining, Shoemaker has said the hybrid schedule has allowed more magnified teaching as there is a smaller pool of adolescents. 
She wants to use this as another teaching opportunity that despite setbacks one can still make the best of the situation from the aspect of being both teacher and mother. 
One thing she wants parents to realize is that they play the role of the first teacher in your child’s education while teachers can guide and teach the curriculum, the best students are those who have the most invested parents. 
Ms. Becky Shoemaker was nominated by a dad that has all his children go through her class with each being their own unique selves and showcasing how she handles all types of children. 
His first had a hard time adapting as they had never been in a situation like that, and Ms. Becky did not give up. 
An exceptionally rough day led to the breakthrough that the child discovered the love and trust she exudes while the others have taken to school like a duck to water. 
All the kids have loved her equally and he hates that his youngest will not get the benefit of having her as much as the older ones did. 
He says Ms. Becky never fails to see the potential in all her students no matter what she is faced with and there is no one he would rather have welcome their child to school laying the beginning bricks of schoolyard lessons and fun building for a sturdy foundation that will stick with his children forever and not have to later be repaired by another teacher. 
She is very instrumental to all who have passed through her doors and will be remembered always by many. 
Not one to take all the credit herself, Mrs. Amy McKinney makes her job even better and is always one step ahead of her it seems. Ms. Becky also wants to thank Ms. Kim Street from Cloudland Elementary for teaching the lessons for the virtual students.
To nominate a teacher to be featured, please send an email with the teacher’s name, school, and possible contact information to ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com.