Schools are a defining part of any community. What better way to get to know your schools than by getting to know your teachers? For today’s Teacher Spotlight, we brought lunch (mmm…Dickey’s Barbecue Pit!) and sat down with Mrs. Cori Hackworth, a 7th grade science teacher at Hardin Valley Middle School. Mrs. Hackworth and I go back several years to my teaching days at Karns High School, where she earned some impressive accolades addressed below.
Adam: Where were you born?
Cori: Danville KY
Adam: What was your middle school mascot?
Cori: Bulldogs and Panthers because I moved to Powell from Kentucky just before 8th grade.
Adam: What college did you go to?
Cori: University of Tennessee – Knoxville
Adam: What did you major in?
Cori: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Cori: When I was little, for some reason, I used to always play with my toys, like my bears and dolls, and I would create a class roster. I would play teacher. And it was always with a science book…I think teaching was always there in the back of my mind.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Cori: If I could go back to college now and be a student, I would major in turf science because I talked to a guy at an [teacher] inservice and I thought that [his work in turf science] was so cool. You get a mixture of science; botany, soil composition, kinesiology, and things like that. But for something more fun, I kinda want to be Leslie Knope (of NBC’s Parks and Recreation), like a community organizer. I don’t really want to work for parks and rec but like, Barack Obama, but a non-political community organizer.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Cori: I would say Mr. Carney; he was my science teacher in the 6th and 7th grade. He was also our quick recall coach. I remember doing very difficult things in his class. One time he had us do an experiment and he gave us these bugs, called Wow Bugs, I am pretty sure that they were just gnats. He had us design an experiment, write up a full lab report and turn it in. I killed all of my bugs except for three. I schmooshed them and I panicked. I just remember continually having to push myself in that class because I didn’t want to fail. Not letter grade but personally fail. And so he was hard core. I remember a lot of stuff from his class, more so than other ones.
Adam: Did you like him and respect him in that moment or is it only now that you look back?
Cori: I don’t know if I liked him…I kind of feared him but not in a scary way. I just didn’t want to disappoint him.
Adam: Who is the best teacher you have taught with?
Cori: I’ve thought a lot about this one and I don’t know who to say as far as who I have taught with, but as far as who I have worked with, I would say my mom. I talk to her almost daily and she gives me the best professional advice about classroom management, reinforcement, new strategies and things like that. She is pretty much helping me drive.
Adam: What year teaching is this for you?
Cori: This is the start of my 8th year
Adam: Start of your 8th, wow! You are pro at this point.
Cori: Ok! I was going to say, ‘wow, you are young or old?!’
Adam: No, in 8 years, that is a really good number to have honed your craft. Now you have shaken things up by coming here [Hardin Valley Middle School from Karns High School].
Cori: And changing grades. Content is pretty much the same. Its biology but with atoms and minus protein synthesis, so I am okay I think.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Cori: Yes, Teacher of the Month a couple of times and I won back to back Teacher of the Year awards. With the 2017 award, I got the big one at graduation.
Adam: And the kids carried you off on their shoulders?
Cori: Well, they could have because I dropped a trash can on my toes so I was hobbling across the stage…that was pretty cool. I took my husband to the first one [award banquet] and my mother to the second one I won and that was a lot of fun.
Adam: Is the award banquet pretty nice. Do they do a big deal?
Cori: They do a dinner and it is a nice dinner. And then they announce your name and so it is pretty cool.
Adam: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Cori: I don’t have kids yet so I can’t say that. Professionally, I think Teacher of the Year was pretty cool winning it [back to back]. Personally, I did the half marathon in March. I am not athletic…running is not my thing. I used to run cross country in Kentucky because Kentucky is beautiful in the fall, so then it was just for fun. But I completed the half marathon. I didn’t do awful and that was a big deal for me. It was the Knoxville Half Marathon so it wasn’t just any half marathon.
Adam: Now that is a really hilly one, right?
Adam: Is there more running in your future?
Cori: Actually, last week I signed up for the Princess Half Marathon. It’s in February at Disney. I don’t like it but it is a mental thing, like, can I do it? Not a physical thing.
Adam: You are addicted! It’s over.
Cori: Yeah it is!
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Cori: Someone who is willing to fail and learn from that failure because students now are terrified to fail…kids think that [it’s not okay] to fail. So growing from that and changing the mindset to if they have failed before, they can get better. A lot of students are like, ‘I’m bad at science or math and I am not going to get any better at it.’ So having a growth mindset at least. Not necessarily getting all A’s equals success to me. Also, one who practices kindness.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Cori: I think finding a way to gather and implement constructive input from local, classroom teachers would have a strong positive impact on our schools.
Adam: What is something that you could use in your classroom?
Cori: Manipulatives, hands on stuff because I left all of my [resources] at Karns High. So craft materials to build models or the professionally built models so that students can take a microscopic subject and make it macroscopic (big), something they can see and hold. They can’t see atoms so they want to see the parts of the atom.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Cori: I really like taking naps. Ha! I summer coach swimming at Gulfwood Pool off of Fox Lonas Rd. But uh, naps, I really love a good mid-day nap.
Adam: What is a good way for a student/parent to spoil you?
Cori: So towards Christmas time, I know it sounds weird but pencils because we run out of pencils by then. Also, I used to get soaps from Bath and Body Works and I was so excited about it because I don’t buy that stuff for myself. Even just candies, coffees…anything that just says hey [thinking about you]. I am pretty easy to please.