Shari Chumley is awarded THS Teacher of the Year


Courtesy of Shari Chumley

Shari Chumley was named Tupelo High School Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021.

Golden Wave Media staff member Jaycee Hudson sat down with THS Teacher of the Year Shari Chumley.

JH: How long have you been teaching?

SC: I’ve been teaching for 14 years. I’ve spent the last 10 years here at Tupelo high school. I taught for four years at Houston High School. And spent 10 years teaching 3 year old preschool before that.

JH: What subjects have you taught?

SC: Since I’ve been at Tupelo High School, I’ve taught English II, English III, Accelerated English III, English IV, AP Literature, Creative Writing, ACT and PSAT Prep, Journalism Labs, Newspaper, Yearbook, Multimedia Reporting, and Foundations of Journalism. In addition, I advise the print publications THS Album, The Hi-Times, The THS Current website, The Tupelo Tea podcast and The Wave Effect THS’ literary Magazine.

JH: Was being a teacher your dream job?

SC: It was not. Actually as a matter of fact, when I graduated from high school, I knew only two things. I did not want to have kids, and I never wanted to be a teacher. I now have three grown children and two beloved grandchildren. And I’ve been teaching for 24 years and feel it’s what I’m meant to do. So when you tell God your plans, he laughs, right?

JH: What personal traits do you need as a teacher?

SC: I think one of the most important things that you need as a teacher is flexibility– especially this year, we have had to be flexible and change our plans over and over and over. I think that teachers who are able to do that are the ones who are most successful. I think teachers also need to be relatable. I think students need to be able to trust their teacher. In addition I think that teachers also need to have authority, but not too much.

JH: How has high school changed since you were in school?

SC: Well, it’s funny, because in a lot of ways it hadn’t changed at all. You guys still sit in the same types of desks that we sat in. We still even read some of the same stories. One of the big things that has changed, of course, is the fact that we do way more things digitally than I did when I was in high school. We did not have personal devices. We did not have cell phones. Everything was done on paper. I can remember writing, by hand, a 10 page research paper for my senior history class, something that you guys would never have to do.

JH: Is there anything you would change about your teaching career? If so what?

SC: Honestly, I don’t think so. I really like where I am. I really like Tupelo high school. I love, love, love the classes that I get to teach. I think that I’m very fortunate with what I get to do every day. I get to come in and have fun with my students. I get to be creative. I get to be a force in their lives. Yeah, no, I wouldn’t change anything right now.

JH: How long did it take you to get your teaching degree?

SC: Actually, I got my teaching license via an alternate route. Again, when I graduated from high school in college, I didn’t have plans to ever be a teacher. I took one education class in college and decided that teaching was not for me. I did have a major change of heart later in life. I earned a bachelor’s degree is in History and English from Belhaven College. In the summer of 2007,  I completed the Mississippi Alternate path to quality teachers program. After teaching for 3 years, I decided that I did need to know a little more about the professional side of teaching. So I did go get a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Getting that degree took me three years because I was teaching and advising.

JH: Have you won any other awards? If so, which one?

SC: I was named as the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association state yearbook advisor of the Year in 2016. And so that was quite an honor. I am also involved in our state and national scholastic press assoication and do a lot of volunteer work through them. I judge competitions for other state and national organizations around the country. I was also named as a Teacher of Distinction by the Create Foundation in 2019.

JH: Is the glass half, half empty or half full?

SC: I’m probably more of a pessimist than I am an optimist. But honestly, as long as the glass has coffee in it, I really don’t care.