April 11, 2014
If you want to see an example of the outstanding public school teachers we are fortunate to have in our state, you should meet Ms. Snotherly. Jill Snotherly is a third grade teacher at West Pine Elementary (Moore County Schools) in West End, NC. She has been teaching in North Carolina for 14 years and believes that teachers must seek students’ talents and potential, spark creativity, and build relationships that leave a lasting, positive and inspiring impression.
But Ms. Snotherly doesn’t just talk about these values, she lives them. And words from a former student prove it. Ten years after having Ms. Snotherly as a second grade teacher, high school senior Kaleigh Beddingfield wrote the below essay for a creative writing assignment. Kaleigh’s mother sent the essay to Ms. Snotherly and thanked her for the positive influence she had on her daughter. Ms. Snotherly responded, calling the tribute “more precious than my whole salary and better than winning teacher of the year.” Ms. Snotherly was gracious enough to share this story with me and now I would like to share it with you as a reminder of the incredible difference teachers can make in the lives of their students.
Ms. Snotherly: The Woman Walking the Extra Mile for Education
The definition of a teacher is a person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession. Not a bad definition, but it conjures up the image of a dull and drab woman with little imagination or humor. But in the second grade I had a teacher who exceeded all of the bounds of that simple definition. Hardly dull and drab, my teacher’s classroom practically sparkled with energy and enthusiasm. She became the model of the ideal teacher and has been the basis of comparison for every year after. Her name was Ms. Snotherly and she was not only a teacher by definition, but also a mother figure and a best friend to her students. There were two particular instances that year in which Ms. Snotherly proved to be more than what she was hired for, especially to me.
The first case was after we had turned in one of our initial writing assignments. When she began to give them back to the class, she held onto mine for a reason of which I was unaware. I was momentarily confused by her actions but became quickly distracted by our next activity. However, there was a parent-teacher night that week, and it was then that she decided to discuss my writing with my parents present. At first, I was nervous when she placed the assignment in question on the desk between us. My nerves were completely unwarranted, I realized, as she began to talk. I remember her encouraging tone as she went on to discuss the assignment I had done. She wasn’t disappointed in my work at all. From that moment on, she watched over me, provoking my passion for writing and providing me with advanced books to expand my mind. It was as if she was sculpting me to be a professional author, which I never would’ve considered if it weren’t for Ms. Snotherly’s support. After realizing this, my teacher began to break out of the standard, uniform image of an instructor and began to feel like another best friend by my side. Her encouragement made me feel special and important at an age where it is easy to feel small and insignificant.
The second time Ms. Snotherly exceeded my expectations was one day at recess. This boy had worn his new soccer cleats out onto the playground and was making sure everyone saw how proud he was of them by stomping around and thrusting them in our faces. Well, his stomping feet took a step too close and crushed my fingers in between his cleat and the blacktop. Naturally, I began to wail in pain as I clutched my crumpled hand to my chest. But as usual, Ms. Snotherly was on the case. She had rushed over to me before I could even get up and began to rub my back with her motherly stroke to calm me down. She noticed that my small booboo was going to need a Band-Aid, so she quickly decided to scoop me up in her arms. Now mind you, it was my hand that was injured and not my leg, but Ms. Snotherly carried me by herself all the way back to her classroom. As I looked up towards her face, all that I could see was a genuine look of concern painted across her eyes. And in that sincere look that she was shining towards me, I felt more than her passion for teaching. I felt the pride she had in seeking to make every student feel special as an individual. She was going the extra mile to treat her students as if they were here own.
Needless to say, Ms. Snotherly went above and beyond within her job title of a being an elementary school teacher. She left some sort of impression on every student and they were almost always positive. I watched her share kind words with other students who were struggling, lavish praise on all who achieved their goals, and slowly make us into better students and people. She was able to show her students things they didn’t even know about themselves and encouraged us to play up our strengths. She even inspired me for most of my educational career to aspire to be a published author or an elementary school teacher as well. However, I could never live up to that ideal that she had created in my young mind. Subsequently, the bar that she had set was inconceivably high. Although there are many good quality teachers out there, I will always refer to Ms. Snotherly as my favorite. I can only hope that others can also appreciate her the way I did and continue to do. She should be admired for the outstanding character she brought to the table each day to make education a better place.
June St. Clair Atkinson