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Perspective | Alexander County family commits to public education

An Alexander County family combines their dedication to public schools with their life’s work. As the district celebrated Public Schools Week at the end of February, a key spotlight shone on the Teagues.

The family of teachers believes public education is the best place for each of them. Sonya Teague works in an exceptional children’s classroom at Bethlehem Elementary. She has 21 years under her belt teaching before and after her children were born.

“I’d always wanted to be an educator. Learning is important to me. I wanted that to be important to my family and my children,” says Teague.

Teague means it. She just finished renewing her National Board Certification, a rigorous program where teachers must demonstrate advanced knowledge. She first earned her National Boards in 2013.

Teague thinks back to her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Shuford, and realizes what educators mean to her own life.

She recalls, “I was very bashful, especially in elementary school. She helped me to come out of my shell with my peers and my friends and talk with them because I was very much an introvert.”

Teague dabbled in private school for a few years and then came back to teaching in public education.

“Public school for me is a chance for all students to come together no matter the circumstance. To be with students who are alike, who are not alike. To find out their differences,” says Teague.

Teague is in one of the hardest to staff positions as a teacher of exceptional children. Not only has she seen teacher recruitment become more difficult, her years of service have seen increasing challenges in public education: low pay, political interference, school safety crises, and more. Still, she says her family decided it was best for her and her family to be in public schools.

“We wanted them to grow in their faith and also to shine their light to other students who may not hear that. To be an example around the students that may not have the same things that they have access to,” she says.

Undoubtedly, Teague’s influence has rubbed off on her children. Her daughter, Haley, teaches second grade in a neighboring county. The youngest, Abby, is finishing her degree at Catawba Valley Community College and then plans to become a middle school social studies and science teacher.

Brother Ben is in his third year at East Alexander Middle School teaching math.

“She never tried to talk me out of it but she did warn me that these things would happen. But I kind of looked at it like a challenge and challenge accepted. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. That these students that are in public education receive the best education that we can give them, so I feel really good about my choice. I love where I’m at. I love Alexander County Schools. I love being at East. I love the kids that I’ve taught,” says Ben.

Ben initially went to Baylor University in Texas studying to be a youth pastor. He says his mom never once tried to talk him out of teaching.

“It’s funny when I decided I didn’t want to use the religion degree and ministry and I wanted to go back for a masters in teaching, she kind of was like ‘Yeah, I sort of thought this was going to happen all along.’ She saw it in me before I even did,” says Ben.

Ben earned his masters degree at Lenoir Rhyne and says like his mom, he’d like to one day have his National Board Certification.

In the meantime, he’s committed to where he is, the students he serves, and public education as an institution.

“Being able to get to see these kids and put a smile on their face and teach them something every day is the ministry that we don’t take lightly and I really enjoy it,” says Ben.

His words echo those of his mom’s.

“I still want to be in public school and make a difference in those children’s lives,” Sonya Teague declares.

Denita Dowell-Reavis

Denita Dowell-Reavis is the director of communications and testing and accountability for Alexander County Schools. She’s a public schools graduate whose ardent support of public education drives her work.