Sheats brings passion for teaching into the classroom
You can say that teaching is something that just comes naturally for Hartselle Junior High School math teacher Earon Sheats, but for her it’s something she has been working her whole life for. Since returning to her hometown of Hartselle to become a teacher in 2004, she has become the standard in Hartselle’s education system. Her hard work recently earned her the award of Fox 54 Valley’s top teacher. However, she still feels that she has plenty to work toward.
Like many educators, she had the desire to become a teacher at a young age after she was inspired by one of her teachers. “In sixth grade I attended Hartselle Junior High and had Pam Berry as my math teacher,” Sheats said. “She made math so engaging and interesting and really challenged us to think differently. The difference she made in my life was what I wanted to make in others.” Sheats remembered the impact Berry made on her as a huge one. “It was life changing,” Sheats said. “I think those are the best moments of our lives. When it becomes real to us, then we can begin to make an impact in other people’s lives.” While Berry was the teacher that got young Sheats interested in becoming an educator, it was the teachers she had afterward that continued to fuel her. “I think it’s a consistency thing,” Sheats said. “You can have one teacher that changes your outlook, but at Hartselle we’ve consistently had great teachers in all departments. When you see the consistent efforts of adults trying to engage with their students, then it helps you be sure that this is what you want to do.”
Sheats got her start in college taking classes in Alabama with the goal of becoming an elementary student, but she soon realized that middle school was where she really wanted to be. “As I got to know the different age groups and go into different classes, I found that middle school was very special,” Sheats said. “They’re very impressionable and soak up everything you say.” Sheats eventually found her way to the University of Mississippi when her husband was forced to move for work and Mississippi was where she spent her first few years of teaching. Eventually she moved back to Hartselle and took her first teaching job at the same education system she had came through in 2004 as a second grade teacher at F.E. Burleson. “I had an opportunity to teach at a school in Madison and then Don Pouncey called and asked if I would be interested in teaching at Hartselle,” Sheats said. “I said ‘yes sir sign me up’.”
Being back in Hartselle gave her the opportunity to work with many of the teachers that had taught her growing up. “Nancy Presnell is an amazing woman and she really helped gear me and steer me in teaching math. Other past teachers I was able to work with were Mr. Pouncey, Sabrina Bitner and Sheila Reeves.” Sheats said. “Being able to work with them and learn from them again, but as a colleague instead of a student has been amazing.” Sheats spent her first three years as an elementary teacher at F.E. Burleson before making the move to the junior high, and while middle school was where she wanted to end up, she still values her time in elementary education. “Most middle school teachers don’t come up through elementary.” Sheats said. “I feel like it prepared me for teaching middle school.” Relationships with her students are what Sheats values and they are easier to build in elementary school when a teacher is with the same students every day all day, than in middle school when she is only with them for an hour a day in middle school. “You have be quicker about building them and you have to take your opportunities,” Sheats said. “I take every chance I get to go see my students at a sporting event or a chorus concert or even just talking to them in the hallway.”
Things have definitely changed since she got her start in Hartselle as many of the teachers that had taught her and she had worked with have since retired. Now, Sheats is looked at for a leadership role, as she is the instructional partner for Hartselle Junior High School where she is responsible for working with the teachers and figuring out the best ways to educate the students. “It’s an absolute honor.” Sheats said. “I can’t say I’m a complete veteran teacher, but having been here for a while you really think about your approach and I think it’s important that we as teachers work together and observe each other and learn from each other.” Sheats would continue. “It makes you better and it sharpens your craft,” Sheats said. “And it doesn’t matter how long you have been teaching. We have a first year teacher here and I have learned several things from him. It’s a matter of your growth mindset and that desire to constantly be better.”
Sheats may be in year number 15 at Hartselle, but she is showing no signs of slowing down as she still feels the desire to impact others. “If you enjoy what you do and look at it as a passion then it doesn’t matter who or what you teach,” Sheats said. “Take every opportunity to learn and work toward what you want to see happen in your classroom.”