“Of course, when a child 'gets it' for the first time it's obvious, but there are many other accomplishments that are just as important. From giving a child the confidence to try something new, to teaching them respect for themselves and each other, or helping them find their moral compass and watching the lessons that you have taught them play out in their lives,” she said. “These are just a few of the small accomplishments that really are big accomplishments that teachers make daily.”
Henderson moved to the Tuscaloosa area for the first time as a freshman at the University of Alabama. She then went on to receive her Master’s from the University of West Alabama and began teaching in 2008 at Berry Elementary in Fayette County.
Henderson has taught kindergarten, first, second and fourth grades in her time as a teacher. She’s been at Taylorville Primary School for nine years and said her advice for new teachers is all in the way students are treated.
“Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.The way you treat your students and make them feel will either make or break them and you,” she said. “Once a student realizes that you love them and have their best interest at heart, they will usually behave the way that you want them to behave.”
While treating students well is key, Henderson said she wishes people knew that a teacher’s job doesn’t end with the school day. As for parents, she said saying in contact with teachers, knowing a child's problem areas and asking how to best support a child outside the classroom are all things that could make a world of difference.
“I have spent many nights and weekends worrying and wondering about what is going on in my student’s lives, if they are hungry, warm, feel loved, etc,” she said. “It’s a never-ending cycle of worry and love. Teachers and parents need to work together as a team to help the child be the best that he/she can be. So many times, it feels as if parents make it an 'us versus them' theme. Really, it shouldn’t be that way. We all need to work together to insure the success of the child.”
Henderson said she’s inspired to be a better teacher from her own experiences in the classroom growing up. Watching a bad example of a teacher, she said she decided to be the change she wanted to see.
“I know most people say they remember a great teacher that had a huge impact on their lives, and I had so many wonderful teachers that I consider friends to this day,” she said. “But the most memorable, and one of the reasons I decided to be a teacher, is because I had one teacher that had a negative influence on my life. I decided that I would be a teacher that did the exact opposite of this teacher and work to make a positive difference in the lives of my school children.”
Henderson said she approaches classroom discipline by trying to help a child understand that she cares about them. By finding things that they like or enjoy and rewarding positive behaviors with those things, she finds the students respond well.
If she wasn't teaching, Henderson said she'd have a completely different career.
“I would be a sports reporter for ESPN,” she said. “I love sports, and that would be my dream job.”