Moving on

Helen Reed retires after 30 years in the classroom; fellow AP Lang teacher Lauren Hamilton moves to county position

Jeannie Williams, Managing Editor

The walls of room 7-212 will be blank for time in six years this summer when English teacher Helen Reed takes down her array of posters and packs up for retirement, concluding 30 years of touching lives.

Reed began teaching in 1981 in a portable for an elementary school in Orange County, but getting there was rough.  Before she interned in a second grade class or graduated from UCF, Reed struggled to decide what to do with her life.  She bounced from social work to business to fashion merchandising before seeking advice from her mother during her junior year of college.

“I just remember sitting on my bed crying hysterically and I said, ‘Mom, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you be a teacher?’” Reed said. “It must have been something from God because from that second on, that’s what it was.  I was going to be a teacher.”

After teaching for five years in Orange County, Reed took five years off to start her family, then returned to teaching in Seminole County, where she has been for the past 25 years.  In that time she taught elementary, middle and high school students, and she credits teaching skills to the wide range of ages she has taught.

“I think you have to know where kids come from and where they’re going in order to really get the full understanding of who the child is,” Reed said. “That has boded well for me.”

Reed’s students picked up on her individualized approach to teaching and were able to pick up on the impact it had.

“The individual attention that she is willing to give to each student really benefits every single individual within a class,” junior AP Lang student Madison Barrett said.

Over the years, Reed incorporated creative curriculum into her classroom. Activities she planned ranged from nighttime archeological digs with fourth grade students to the Capulet Ball with freshmen.

Reed’s decision to retire was impacted by several things.  After 30 years of teaching she considered going into a drop program that would allow for five more years of teaching.  Ultimately it was changes in curriculum that told Reed it was time to move on from teaching.

“I was so torn because I love kids, and I love curriculum, but if I’m not able to do it in the way that I think is best for kids, then I feel like I need to make a change,” Reed said. “I know I’ll find other ways to make a difference and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Reed was known best for the last six years as a rigorous but impactful AP Language teacher, and she taught with Lauren Hamilton, the other half of the AP Lag duo, who will be also be leaving this year. Hamilton, who will be an English and Language Arts Specialist for middle and high schools next year, will be in charge of helping teachers implement standards-based curriculum.

Hamilton will act as a resource for teachers and also as a liaison between the classroom and the district office, and she hopes to soften the blow of curriculum changes by informing teachers exactly on what is being changed and what is not.

“What’s going to make [English teachers] feel more comfortable is knowing that they can use whatever resources they want literature-wise because a lot of teachers feel very passionate about the pieces they teach,” Hamilton said.

Before getting a job at the county, Hamilton worked alongside Reed for nine years. Hamilton “floated” for her first year as a teacher, as she didn’t have a permanent classroom and had to migrate throughout the day.  Her first impression of Reed’s room was the overwhelming number of posters on her wall.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I going to turn into this? Is this what an English teacher looks like?’” Hamilton said. “[Her room] still is a crazy, hot mess, but I am lucky that I was able to follow in her footsteps and turn out kind of like her with my passion and work ethic and dedication.”

With Reed and Hamilton both leaving, current English teachers Lisa Gendreau and Kristina Slick will fill the open AP Lang slots.

“They know we’re here as a resource for them, but it’s their course.  We don’t want them to feel like they have to do anything we did,” Hamilton said. “We were very successful, but we were successful because we got to make it our own.”

Both teachers gained a great deal of recognition for their time here.  Both received notes from current and former students wishing them well in their future endeavors.

Knowing that the AP Lang program will be left in good hands, Reed can move onto the next chapter of her life.

“I have absolutely no plans.  This is probably the first time in my life I’ve had no plans,” Reed said. “I’ll probably start tutoring and see what happens. This entire experience has made me who I am.  ‘Helen Reed’ and ‘teacher’ are synonymous.”

 

The Capulet Ball is an activity Helen Reed always did for students studying Romeo and Juliet.  Students wore masks and acted out Act I, Scene V of the play.  Check out pics of this year’s below:

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