Liberty Bell English teacher Haley Reynolds has a big smile as she walks into her school each day. While the pandemic has changed the look of her classroom, Reynolds still reports with one mission in mind: finding a book that will unlock a student’s love of reading.
“Having a child tell you that they’ve never loved reading until now, that is what keeps me going,” Reynolds said. “I love seeing the kids find something that they enjoy reading. We just finished The Outsiders and having a student tell me that they never enjoyed reading until now, that is what keeps me going every day.”
Reynolds was recently named the Johnson City Schools Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8. She joined South Side Elementary teacher Morgan Rankin and Science Hill teacher Sandy Babel who earned the honors for grades PreK-4 and 9-12, respectively.
“I’m very honored and I feel so blessed,” Reynolds said about being named JCS Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8. “I have really grown here in this district. I started student teaching here under Kelsey Walker and I feel in love with this school, the collaboration and diversity, which really keeps me motivated.”
Reynolds’ mission of connecting students with books they can relate to is an attribute that was uncovered by one of her former middle school teachers, Lauren Summar.
“She just really encouraged me and helped me find books that I loved reading and I want to make kids feel the same way,” Reynolds said. “Reading can be a form of entertainment, a form of growth and show us how we can become better people and change the way we view the world.”
She noted that she begins each lesson with an essential question and agenda for the learning segment. Besides connecting the lessons to the Tennessee State Standards, Reynolds also likes to connect her lessons with students’ personal lives and previous learning experiences. This helps her keep a good rapport with her students by making them feel acknowledged, respected and the center of the learning environment.
Reynolds said that her time as a student teacher under Walker was eye-opening and she learned a tremendous amount. It was an honor, she said, to then be able to join an English department that she admired.
“The entire English department at Liberty Bell has been incredible to work with,” Reynolds said. “We all work together so well to get students involved with the community.”
Reynolds spent the first three semesters of the school year teaching fully remote students but has recently switched her schedule to include one in-person class, two remote classes and a hybrid class each day. Change is something that she has become accustomed to this year, but it has also provided her with strength and a stronger belief in herself.
“It has been challenging, but it has also been a noteworthy year,” Reynolds said. “We have all learned how to effectively incorporate our districts’ technology tools into our instructional plans to promote student learning, autonomy, and engagement.”
“I feel extremely honored and blessed to be recognized as Teacher of the Year during this year full of challenge and change,” Reynolds continued. “I am blessed to work with such empowering leaders and colleagues. 2020-2021 will be a year that I will never forget.”