The award may be engraved with her name, but Lamar 8th grade teacher Stephanie Gouge said that her working environment is what helped her earn the nod as the Washington County School Teacher of the year in grades 5-8.
“It’s a great honor to have been selected,” Gouge said. “I think it reflects back to the school and how our school is focused on using every moment that we have with our students to teach them, and not just to teach them standards, but to also teach them life skills. Our entire faculty works very hard everyday and I just feel honored to be representing our school and our county at this grade level.”
Gouge is in her first year of teaching eighth grade English and Language Arts at Lamar, but she started her teaching career in 2000 at Boones Creek Elementary, where she taught for four years. But when she and her husband had their second child, Gouge decided to stay home and spend those formative years with her children of which she now has four.
After spending time as a parent representative on Washington County’s EPIC committee, an administrator at one of the schools asked about her coming back. That led her to putting in an application and she was able to resume teaching in 2013 at Fall Branch where she taught 7th grade.
After a year-and-a-half, she made a request to move to Lamar where she became a 4th grade teacher. This year, she moved to 8th grade at the school and she said she really enjoys it.
“I love it,” she said through a smile. “I love the grade level, the content, but I most enjoy the students. The ability to build the relationship with the students has just been a wonderful experience. They are so smart and inquisitive. They push me everyday to be my best.”
Gouge said that she enjoys having the 8th grade bunch, because they seem to be so focused on doing well before they leave the school for high school.
“They are more focused when you mention to them that this is their last stop before high school and they need to be preparing for high school. That really is sobering to students and at this age, they are thinking about what they want to do next year and where they want to be in the next four years.”
One of those students that is enjoying their last year at Lamar is Gouge’s daughter, Emma, who has had the opportunity to teach on two separate occasions, in 4th and 8th grade. It has made for an interesting dynamic, but nonetheless, the two have made it work.
“We had some growing pains,” Gouge said. “But we did well. She always called me Mrs. Gouge and she was respectful…We have really done better than I expected, she gives me feedback and I give her feedback. So we help each other along.”