Amy Wedge has a passion for teaching. Throughout her 26 years as a teacher, she has continued to grow and has become a role model to her students. Many of her pupils describe her as being honest and open — pushing them to their limits in order to help them succeed. However, Ms. Wedge hasn’t always been called to teaching. Throughout her life, she has overcome different hardships that shaped the person and the teacher she is today. This is Amy Wedge’s journey to becoming a teacher.
“When I was a child, I didn’t aspire to become a teacher. But I played teacher all the time with my sisters. They tease me about it now, but I would bring home elementary school worksheets and make them work it out. I would always be the teacher. I actually wanted to be an actress or an FBI agent, and a mom.”
The Start of Something New
“I went to school to become an engineer because back in the 1980s I was good at math and science, and I thought that I would be good at engineering. But when I got in the classroom, I realized that I didn’t want to be an engineer. So I took a computer test, and it told me either lawyer or teacher. So I choose teaching and then transferred from Michigan Tech to Eastern Michigan University. I went from left brain to really right brain. I got a comprehensive communication theater arts and radio television degree with a minor in English language and literature.”
First years becoming teacher
“I did my student teaching up at Ann Arbor for radio and television and then I got a job in Port Huron. Up there in Michigan, they have unions. And you had to fill out a slip saying what combination of classes you could teach. It was based on seniority. So I was pink slipped every Spring (laid off) every year my first four years of teaching, than rehired back in September. So I was at 4 different schools my first four years of teaching. I also taught special needs classes, middle schoolers, high schoolers, American Lit, Speech,then Adult Ed and then I went to Northern High School, and there I taught everything from 12th grade English to radio and communications.”
“After I got my degree in teaching, I decided that I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. So I sold water purification systems in downtown Detroit going door to door; getting in, talking to them for four hours, doing the lead tests because I didn’t want to be a teacher. Now I can’t remember why I got burned out on the idea of teaching. But then, I went home to Saint Claire area and started teaching at the YMCA. That started to give me back the love of teaching. Teaching is my calling. I have always been a coach and always loved helping people. I was getting my masters while I was teaching. I ended up here in North Carolina after 6 years of teaching in Michigan.”
“My mom, who just passed four months ago, has always been a big influence me. She always had a teacher mentality, even though she was never a teacher per say — she was a Sunday School Teacher. My high school English teacher ‘Uncle Mac’, Mr. McDonald, inspired me. He always made it fun. In British literature, he would blow a whistle and we would line up against a wall and march. He would stand on his desk and sing. He’s where I got the idea that teaching can be fun.”
The Leesville Years
“I was taking substitute classes when I got the call to come interview here at Leesville Road High School. I started here October 28, 1996, so it really wasn’t at the beginning of the year. But it’s really interesting because the first four years it was the sink or swim mentality up in Michigan with the unions. I felt bad because the year I was leaving, I was going to take over one of my best friends (and colleagues) position because I had more seniority than her for teaching radio. But that was her calling and her passion. But luckily I was moving to North Carolina, and she was able to keep the position and continue her passion. Throughout the years here at Leesville, I’ve learned that I too have a calling. It doesn’t pay well, but that was never my driving factor; although I wish that we [teachers] would get more respect from the students and society.
I feel like in the last ten years it has geared towards blame the teachers. Everyone is asking, What are we going to do to better the teachers? Instead of looking at the different factors, like the parents and the teachers. So the morale was pretty low for a while. It’s been an ebb and flow. Sometimes I wonder, why do I teach? Why do I think I can be a teacher? Even to this day after 26 years I wonder. But I’m a reflective teacher. I am always looking to see how I can improve. I’m hardest on myself–harder than any student can be or any parent for that matter because I set standards high. The road has teaching has been complicated, but interesting.”
“Things have changed even since I’ve been here in 1996. We used to be more academically seriously. Now the focus isn’t so much on the academics. We used to have students who read a lot and read more. Now it is more cellphones. It used to be more interaction and communication. Now it is more about me me me.”