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Taylor happy to be teaching

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Alma High School Principal Brian Kirkendoll isn't the first boss to use social media as a tool. 


Last spring, when he was thinking about hiring a new science teacher, Kirkendoll logged onto Rene Taylor’s Facebook account. Something caught his eye. 


"I looked her up on Facebook and saw she had lost a dog," Kirkendoll explained. "When we went to meet (at UAFS), I said, 'Did you find your dog?' She looked at me like I was crazy.' I told her I had looked her up on Facebook. 


"I told the group, 'Make sure your social media doesn't have anything that shouldn't be on there.' The idea is that when you put stuff on social media you never know who is looking — I do that for everyone."


"The story about the dog is so funny," Taylor said. "I met Mr. Kirkendoll at a UAFS 'meet the principals' event. When it came time to meet the Alma staff, we all sat down and were listening to each of the principals tell us about their schools and what they look for. When they were finished, he had asked me if I found my dog. I looked at him surprised and said 'yes' but also was very confused. He said that he had looked me up on Facebook to see what kind of stuff I posted because they do try to make sure you don't put bad things on social media and see what kind of person you are. 


“We laughed and I said all he would see (Facebook) is family and baseball!”


A Greenwood native, Taylor signed on to replace David Williams as one of Alma's science teachers last spring. She had actually been offered the position prior to Mr. Williams' untimely passing in April 2020. 


Taylor has settled in as a first-year teacher without missing a beat.


But it was a little nerve-wracking as she was finishing her final semester of college last spring. 


“I was afraid I wasn’t going to get to graduate,” she said. “I thought they were going to cancel it or make my internship go to the next semester.


“I was paranoid that I wasn’t going to get to finish.”


Taylor finished. And, though she had already been offered the Alma position, said she appreciated the fact Kirkendoll kept in contact with her as COVID-19 was forcing a worldwide quarantine. 


“He would call and check on me,” she said. “He calls and says, ‘I’m just calling to make sure everything’s good.’


“I wasn’t even working for him yet, but he was still calling to make sure I wasn’t going insane.”


UAFS Connection 


Kirkendoll and other Alma principals make it a point to meet with as many potential UAFS teaching hopefuls as possible. 


“I enjoy and cherish the opportunity going to UAFS,” Kirkendoll said. “It’s not really a job fair, but you can meet with teachers that are getting ready to graduate. You get to kind of showcase Alma High School, and Alma Schools, and they (potential teachers) can do the same thing. What caught my attention with her, and also Miss (Allie) Stags, is their personality.


“Talking to them and looking at their resumes, I remember them being very bubbly, very courteous, very kind … I thought they would be great additions.”


Kirkendoll made initial contact with Taylor and Staggs in the fall of 2019. 


"When he called to ask for an interview, it made me feel comfortable but confident," Taylor said. "Even though I was still going through everything I was, it gave me hope that he still wanted an interview.


“He listens; the same with Mr. (Jason) Reeves and Dr. (Stacie) Wood. They listen to what my questions are and they always get back to me.”


Full Year


In addition to COVID-19, the virus that took the world by storm in March 2020, Taylor knew she would have to take some time last fall with the birth of her son. 


"Between COVID, my first year of teaching, and maternity leave — all in the first semester — it's been a mess," she said. "But, the department I work for, they're amazing. They stood up

and helped me when I needed it, especially when I was on leave. If I didn't have them, I probably would have gone insane trying to figure it out myself."  


One other potential obstacle turned out to be a breeze — teaching teenagers.


Most of Taylor's biology students come to school every day. Others work from home as remote students.


"I knew it was going to be a challenge," Taylor said. "I feel like you have to find that ground to where they're not like, 'Oh, this is something I have to do.' I knew it was going to be a challenge, especially with remote (students). 


"(But) as long as you can get on a level with them, I think it's easier to get them to cooperate. I tell them you're young adults and you have to learn responsibilities, whether you're in the classroom or the real world."


Last fall, before the winter chill, Taylor took her classes outside as a way of working on-site labs.


“It’s a different atmosphere; they absolutely love it,” she said. “There are some labs we were able to do outside. Plus, I let them breathe a little bit.”


Teaching passion 


A 2004 Greenwood High graduate, Taylor said she’d wanted to teach for as long as she could remember. 


"When I was little, I used to make my cousins sit and let me play teacher," she said. "I've always wanted to be a teacher, but I did family first. I had kids first, then I decided I wanted to go back. 


"It's been a dream of mine to be a teacher."


Two high school teachers, in particular, officially put the teaching bug in Taylor. 


"I had a teacher, Mr. (Allen) McDonald; I loved the way he taught," Taylor said. "I kind of incorporate that into my classroom. The same with my intern teacher (Joann King), she was my chemistry teacher in high school. They made it fun, and I thought if I could make it fun when I teach, then maybe more kids would want to be teachers. You try to leave that lasting impression on them."