Educator: Meet Tommy, a Teacher at Everett High School in Everett, WA

Interviewer: Vy Nguyen; July 24, 2020

Interviewee: Tammy Price, Teacher @ Everett High School

Everett High School is located in Everett, WA (Wikipedia).

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born & raised in Louisiana, living there until my mid 20s. I attended one school from 1st thru 12th grade and there were 48 students in my graduating class of 1982! That’s not much larger than a classroom full of students these days! I’ve been married 35 years, have 3 grown adult children and 5 grandchildren ages 10-16.

As a teacher, what was the biggest change you had to make during the school year related to COVID-19?

I’m sure any teacher would tell you that it was shocking to suddenly transition to online teaching when that wasn’t even something anyone was considering in early 2020. Even though I am very comfortable teaching online, I could see that there were many missing pieces that I didn’t really have control over. Things like student expectations or a common online platform for teaching were still not decided upon. So that caused much turmoil in those early weeks of online learning.

"Even though I am very comfortable teaching online, I could see that there were many missing pieces that I didn’t really have control over."

What does your day to day routine look like?

Even though usually high school teachers in our district go to school from 7am-2:30, those hours shifted dramatically when we transitioned to online learning. I’m usually at my computer by 8am, checking email, planning my day out, confirming when my Zoom meetings will be. I’m co-teaching an online Summer Internship Experience over this Summer, so that fills my days with planning, Zoom meetings with other teachers as well as students and Mentors and trying to add some “me” time in there, too.

Two to four of my grandchildren come over every week day since their moms work in Medical Offices. We have one of them in Summer School which involves a morning schedule with Zoom meetings and online activities. The others hang out, watch TV, watch videos, play some games and I like to plan some kind of Art/Craft activity for them, too. They also go outside, play with the dog or help us with yard work.

In the evenings, my husband and I enjoy making dinner. Right now we are watching the whole series of Star Trek Enterprise while we wait for the next season of Star Trek Discovery to be released! I also read some evenings or work on puzzles. I have just finished reading The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity. And just yesterday I read a whole graphic novel, Displacement about Japanese Internment that happened during WWII. I only read books that are based on real life, nonfiction. One of my favorite books is Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham. He has been a friend of mine from childhood. And his book is about a bicycle trip in the birth country of Vietnam. But he mixes that in with biographical memories of his childhood and escaping to America in the mid 1970s. It's sort of a memoir of his search for his identity. I reread this book every few years!

What made you want to become a teacher?

I actually didn’t start out my adult life on a career path to be a teacher! My first career was in the Floral Industry. I earned an Associate of Science in Horticulture from Louisiana Tech University, then worked in Flower Shops and Greenhouses till my mid 30s. Then I returned to college to earn a Bachelor of Arts from UW-Bothell in Culture/Literature/Arts. It was during that time that I worked as a Substitute Para Educator in our school district and realized I enjoyed being in the classroom. So, after I graduated, I looked online for school district jobs and found that Everett High School was looking for a Floral Design Teacher. I was 38 years old when I started teaching Floriculture, since that was my whole work background. Career & Technical Education Teachers can come out of working in an industry to teach that industry in the classroom.

I taught Floriculture for 14 years. The last 4 years I’ve transitioned to teaching a variety of CTE classes related to careers like College & Career Readiness Seminar, Work Based Learning, Career Choices, Internship, and now Computer Applications and Independent Living.

What advice would you like to give to any student who is interested in becoming a teacher?

  • Teach what you are passionate about.

  • In the classroom, be yourself.

  • Teaching is more about being a positive adult in a student’s life than making sure they are learning the subject you teach!

If you could teach anything in the world, any subject or even activity, what would you teach?

I feel like I’m really happy about what I teach now. Teaching students about life after high school and guiding them to make good decisions in the years ahead is really fulfilling. I want to make a difference.

I know I made a difference teaching Floriculture because I still hear from students today about the impact our class had on them. It's important to me to see that “light bulb” come on in a student’s head when they understand the importance of something we’ve talked about in class.

"Teaching students about life after high school and guiding them to make good decisions in the years ahead is really fulfilling."

Because of COVID-19, many things needed to move online, how difficult or smooth was that transition for you?

Even though it was a quick transition to online teaching, I was excited about it. I have a Masters Degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University, so I was ready and felt prepared. The system (the school district) was not prepared. So therefore the students weren’t prepared which caused a lot of stress. I did not get the student engagement that I wanted but it looked the same across the country. We learned a lot and I feel like it will be much better if/when we need to do it again.

In the next school year, what changes are you going to implement into your classrooms to create those needed changes?

I need to be more aware of where students are coming from, not literally or geographically, but their mindset. I will use the idea of Growth Mindset to help all students realize their potential even though I felt like I was already doing that. I need to be intentional!

What are you looking forward to most when life goes back to "normal" after COVID-19 has finally been taken under control?

Daily, casual conversations with students that just happen spontaneously. Classroom discussions can be planned, but when they just come up out of personal experiences, it ends up being more powerful. That’s hard to replicate online.

What is one piece of advice that you would give?

I always want my students to know that they have to make their own decisions about life after high school. They will get advice from everyone about careers, work, college, etc. But ultimately you have to figure out what is going to be best for you, because you are the one that has to live your life!