As Teachers’ Appreciation Week approaches, Red Gold News is shining spotlights on all of our amazing teachers.

One such teacher is Mrs. Charles, who has been teaching Biology DE since the beginning of Jimmy Carter Early College High School (JCECH).

A job that seemed small at first but ended up being way more than just a casual decision to try it out.

Ms. Charles’s journey to becoming a teacher began with a simple thought: ‘Why not.’ This led her on an exciting path filled with unexpected twists and turns. Join us as we explore how she discovered her passion for teaching and the moments that shaped her decision to pursue this rewarding career.

“I landed in this career because of a scholarship I had,” Ms. Charles said. “This scholarship paid for four years of college. I was a Biology major in college and wanted to ultimately become a Pharmacist. When I was in my 3rd year at school, I already qualified to graduate, but my counselor told me I would be giving up a year and a half of my scholarship. She suggested that I take the Secondary Certification Program with the Education Department. So I  figured, why not.”

Knowing that she needed to take the PCAT to pursue a career as a pharmacist, Ms. Charles made the decision to become a teacher while simultaneously preparing for the exam. “Once I scored high enough, I would apply to pharmacy schools. So, being a teacher, it just kind of happened to me. I completed my teaching courses and my student teaching at Idea and graduated on May 15th, 2010. I took my PPR and Life Science content Teacher exams and passed both on the first try.”

After deciding to pursue teaching, Ms. Charles eagerly applied to four different school districts and eagerly waited for an interview response. Then, one day, she received a call from Mrs. Sepulveda, the first principal at Jimmy Carter Early College High School (JCECH). This phone call marked a turning point in Ms. Charles’s career.

“I applied to jobs and got a call from Mrs. Sepulveda when I was at work to come in for an interview. I left to have my interview, and I remember she showed me my classroom, which is the room I’m currently in today. After the interview, she recommended me for the job, and I was approved by the board. I loved the vision that she had for the school and the whole goal of being an Early College HS. At that time, I didn’t know of any other campus that was an ECHS in the valley, so I was excited to be a part of it.”

Ms. Charles is among some teachers at Carter who started their careers at the first early college in the valley, paving the way for a generation of college-ready students.

“I have been teaching as long as Jimmy Carter ECHS has been open (14 years), but that first year, the school was called College Transition Academy. During that first year of opening our doors to the first graduating class of 2014, we worked diligently to apply to be an Early College High School.”

Ms. Charles became so enthusiastic about this new opportunity that she decided not to take her PCAT, as she had fallen in love with JCECH.

“Needless to say, I never attempted the PCAT because I loved what I did and didn’t feel the need to explore that initial career goal.”

But, teaching is far from a breeze; with each new generation of students, educators face fresh techniques and obstacles to overcome. Despite the challenges of teaching in different environments every year, Mrs. Charles remains committed to creating a supportive and encouraging environment for her students.

“…what truly makes teaching special for me is the opportunity to connect with my students on a personal level. Building these relationships not only enhances their learning journey but also makes my own experience as an educator incredibly enjoyable.”

However, teaching ultimately has its perks, whether it’s the cherished memories being made along the way or the joy of witnessing students like Jimmy Carter grow throughout the years.

“A memorable moment would probably be when we were recognized as a Blue Ribbon Campus in 2018. To this day, none of the Early College HS in our district has gotten that. In the past eight years, the first-generation requirement has been removed, and our school has taken in all students wanting to join us and become RedWolf. The student body that we had then and that we have now is almost the same. What we offer them is an environment in which to grow and excel.”

Yanet, a junior at Jimmy Carter ECHS, enjoys writing for RGN and is active in a variety of groups and after-school activities. Yanet takes comfort in picking up new languages and binge-watching TV shows and movies.