Teachers Beyond Teaching


Photo Credits Ella Love

Sophie Brissett, Editor in Chief

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Ms. Horne’s classroom was the bright Christmas lights behind her desk. I sat on a spinning office chair near her, from where I could see the entire square of the room, the center of which was an open carpet surrounded by tables lined against the wall. Ms. Horne shared with me that she designed her classroom based on student input saying the best classroom experience they ever had was in an elementary school classroom.

“Almost every kid liked a place where there were things to touch and play with, things they could make and own, and room to move around, and it’s comfortable. And I was like, I could do those things. I mean if you look at my dinosaurs people are still just into being weird.” I then noticed the green dinosaur on the desk before me, covered in twisted pipe cleaner. 

Ms. Horne emphasizes the physical space of her classroom, and works to cater to the needs of restless and energetic bodies all day long so that students could best concentrate. She loves having space for her students to move around, which was evident by the open carpet on which her students can nap or move their bodies as needed. Ms. Horne always checks in with her students about her strategies, “Because who better to guide than you? Aren’t there like 14 million ways to teach every subject? I think there are.” This vibrant and lively space has been carefully curated by Ms. Horne to meet what her students need and ask for.


If I claim to be a wiseman then surely I don’t know. 

It’s a Kansas lyric that Ms. Shuff, English 10 Honors teacher, holds firm to. “I think about that all the time, because I think the best thing you can do in life is assume you don’t know anything about another person. I don’t know you, and I want to get to know you. And I just have a really deep love for people in general wherever they’re at.” 

That is Ms. Shuff’s talent– meeting students where they are at. Her classroom is a safe space for students to learn, rest, and share their ideas and art. Ms. Shuff knows that to connect with a student she must treat them as her equal. She delights in getting to know the nuances of a student and discovering facets she could never have predicted. “It’s a constant surprise getting to talk to people and a joy to talk to them, and it’s like watching them unfold.” 


These relationships with students are often the joy and motivation of the job for the teacher. When I asked Mr. Wilkerson, CHS school Counselor, what the biggest barrier to connecting with students was, he responded with, “Connecting with students is the easy part.”

“I’ve been in education for over 20 years so now I’ve got students in their 30s and 40s and so when they come back to me and I engage [with] them it is amazing the things that we shared that I don’t remember that really resonated with them,” Mr Wilkerson told me. “So what I realize is that when I’m talking to a student it might just be Tuesday morning for me, but I may say something that has ripples in eternity.”

Mr Wilkerson makes efforts to walk the halls and be out during lunches so he can interact with students on an informal level, something he has realized can be just as impactful as his scheduled meetings. 


The hallway truly is a place students can connect with teachers, and if any CHS student has walked down GT hallway, they have surely been complimented, hugged, or simply yelled at with joy by CHS teacher Mr. Cooke. When I asked Mr. Cooke what classes he teaches, he responded, “Choir, Piano, and Hallway.” I inquired about the last class and was told, “Hallway. It’s my largest class and everybody’s in it. I claim that everybody who walks by my door is in my door.” 

Mr. Cooke is a teacher full of joy and energy whose classroom is a place for many students to explore their talents. Mr. Cooke is incredibly intuitive, and works hard to know students on such a level that he can be attentive to their emotional needs. 

“I can always tell, especially people I see on the daily. If something’s off I can see it in your face. You’re like ‘I’m fine’ but your lips and your eyes and your face are telling me a different story. So I won’t ask you any questions, I’ll probably just give you a hug or a box of tissues or let you sit in my practice room for a minute till you collect yourself. It’s important to get to know people just to notice the little things.” 

Noticing the little things has gone a long way, as countless students look forward to Mr. Cooke’s classroom as a place to be seen, heard, and supported. 


The safest teachers, the ones students reach out to and feel pursued by, often work hard to actively pursue and engage their students. If a teacher puts in effort to be attentive and intuitive, it goes a long way. Students who feel heard and seen by their teachers learn better and look forward to entering the classroom. It is essential that teachers put this effort into care for their students.