N.C. Teacher of the Year visits Elon Teaching Fellows
Tyronna Hooker G'09 shared with students her career journey from the criminal justice system to winning the state's highest honor for educators.
North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year paid a visit to dozens of Teaching Fellows at Elon University this week when she returned to offer advice and wisdom for a career filled with rewards and frustrations at a time of great social change.
Tyronna Hooker, a teacher of exceptional children at Graham Middle School in Alamance County, is a 2009 graduate of Elon’s Master of Education program. Her advice to current students is simple: “Know your content.”
Hooker answered submitted written questions on Oct. 13, 2011, in a McCoy Commons program for most of the 87 Teaching Fellows who attend the university. The discussion, moderated by Elon senior Taylor McKee, included several nuggets of wisdom, including:
1.) If you know you want to make teaching your career, go to graduate school soon after leaving Elon; waiting any longer risks having pessimists wear down your enthusiasm.
2.) If you aren’t sure about your career path, work for a year or two before returning for a graduate degree. Don’t waste time and money for an education you wouldn’t use for long if you left the classroom.
3.) The biggest challenge the next generation of teachers will face is educating students for jobs that have yet to be created.
“There is no more ‘specific teaching,’” she said. “You are now creating thinkers.”
Hooker was named the state’s top educator last spring in a ceremony that honored a woman whose career began not in the classroom, but rather the criminal justice system. Hooker originally pursued a career in criminal justice after graduating from North Carolina Central University.
While later serving as a therapeutic foster parent for the Elon Homes for Children, a child described to her the difficulties he faced in school as a result of how the public school system was set up. She vowed to make a difference and earned her teaching certificate in 2005.
As North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Hooker will spend the school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession. She also will serve as an adviser to the State Board of Education for two years.