She’s here, there…she’s everywhere! Hardin Valley Academy’s Maddie Warren stretches our students through clubs, the classroom and on the soccer pitch.
Adam: Where were you born?
Maddie: Knoxville, Tennessee.
Adam: Which hospital?
Maddie: Parkwest. Only four miles from my house.
Adam: What high school did you end up going to?
Maddie: Hardin Valley Academy. I apparently really love it here, haha!
Adam: Where did you attend college?
Adam: What was your major?
Maddie: English with a minor in journalism. Thought I wanted to be a sideline NFL reporter, and then I realized how tough it was to get into that.
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Maddie: This is year five for me.
Adam: What subjects are you teaching this semester?
Maddie: I have Honors English for freshmen and a new class that we started last year called Freshmen Seminar. Freshman Seminar is basically life skills 101. It teaches kids how to be better students and helps them transition into high school.
Adam: Do you think Freshman year is the right year to start that?
Maddie: I think it can be taught every year, to be honest with you. I think that we go through a lot of topics that kids really need more guidance on. We start with soft skills such as time management and organization and conflict resolution. Then, we move on to talking about our specific pathways at Hardin Valley and different classes they can take. Then, we end with job interviews and job skills like resumes, cover letters and things like that. I think that it sets a good foundation coming into high school, but then could be touched on every year.
Adam: What clubs do you sponsor or do you coach any sports?
Maddie: I’m the girl’s soccer assistant coach and I also work with the boy’s soccer program. I’m the administrative person for the boys program. I’ve also helped sponsor student council. We also just started a new club that we’re calling Game-Changers. It’s a student athlete leadership council and it’s really fun. I’m really excited about that. We met for the first time today. How it works is, the coaches choose athletes from each team and then we’re going to talk a lot about how we can help specific athletes within their teams. We’re teaching these students different leadership skills and styles to hopefully take back to their teams to build better culture in general. We’ve been talking about it for a while. It’s exciting to see it happening. I’m also very involved with running graduation in the spring that comes with a club called Junior Marshals who help me run graduation.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Maddie: Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. My mom was a teacher and she kept telling me not to do it because she knew how much goes into it. So, when I was in college, I took a lot of different paths. I started with journalism. Then, I wanted to be an occupational therapist for a while. Then, my senior year of college, I wanted to be a substitute because I only had class a couple of days a week. That’s when I realized that I was supposed to be a teacher. So, I called my mom one day and I said, “Mom, this is what I’m supposed to do!” I always knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I just had to work my way back to it.
Adam: What is the funniest teaching story you have?
Maddie: My kids say funny things every day. Even if I’m not allowed to laugh at it at the time, I immediately go tell my coworkers something that my kids said, and we just sit there and just laugh. They are so funny and unfiltered. They have a lot of really funny, sarcastic things that I actually enjoy, but I’m not allowed to show that all the time.
Adam: What’s your most heartwarming teaching story?
Maddie: It was my first couple of years teaching. I had a student that was really quiet. She didn’t talk very much so I never could really tell if she was engaged or enjoying what we were doing at the time. That’s just sometimes how kids are and that’s fine. But she wrote me a note at the end of the year. It was the nicest note that I’ve ever gotten. She mentioned how much she enjoyed class, how she thought that my personality was really warm and welcoming. I think it was just really nice to get validation from someone that I didn’t know felt that way. Even if kids are quiet and maybe don’t talk in class and aren’t as loud in class, it was a good reminder that they’re still paying attention. They’re still there. They’re still learning.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Maddie: Most recently, I think I’d be very good at flipping houses. I really like to work with power tools. It feels empowering.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Maddie: I really enjoyed my third grade year. My teacher was Miss Earl and class was right next door to my mom’s classroom so we did a lot of things together. It was really fun to be able to be with my mom that much. In high school, the one that stands out to me is Ms. Driskill. I had her twice and she was my freshman and junior year English teacher. That’s kind of a cool full circle moment because now I teach English with her. When I got to my junior year and I was in AP Literature, I wasn’t super confident in my English ability. She really helped me see that I could do it. I still tell myself things that she used to say to me. Things like, “you can, you’re smarter than you think you are”. She made me feel that way a lot.
Adam: Which educator have you learned the most from since you’ve been at HVA?
Maddie: This one is difficult because I’ve learned so much from so many different teachers. We spend a lot of time in the work rooms with teachers that don’t teach our subjects and teach differently. I got to learn a lot from everyone around me and how they taught their kids and what I could do differently and how we can incorporate other subjects into our own. I really feel like our teachers are a community of teachers. It’s not like I’m on my own, trying to figure out English by myself. I’ve learned a lot from the administrators that have evaluated me. I’ve gotten really good feedback on that. I like to learn about what I can do better. I like to hear what they have to say, especially whenever they’re on the same wavelength as me. I’ve always been encouraged to do things outside the box. I’ve been encouraged to think differently about ways that I can reach kids, which is really neat. If I had to drop anyone’s name, I think I would drop Brooke Bianchi-Pennington. She’s our English department chair. I’ve learned so much from her in the past five years. She’s also somebody that I feel very comfortable asking English questions to.
Adam: What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?
Maddie: I guess I would say I’m really proud of the way that I handle the workload of everything that I do here. I take on a lot of extracurriculars for kids, but I feel it helps me do better at my job when I fully immerse myself in it. If I had to get more specific, I’d say I’m most proud of the soccer program and how Jessica Stephen’s and I have really built that up. My freshman year here was the first year Hardin Valley Academy opened and I was on the first soccer team. It’s been fun to watch the program grow and implement new things for the team. The girls support each other and they’re proud to play no matter if we’re winning or if we’re losing. I think we have built a culture that the girls can be proud of.
Adam: What do you wish every parent knew?
Maddie: I wish every parent knew that your teachers are working very hard to make your child’s educational experience the best that it can be. They’re learning to overcome different types of obstacles and we’re helping in every aspect that we can.
Adam: What do you wish every student knew?
Maddie: I wish every student knew that there’s a purpose for everything that we do, even if they don’t always see it upfront. It’s intentional.
Adam: What is the difference between a good and a great teacher?
Maddie: Great teachers love kids first. Great teachers see kids more than just a student sitting in their classroom because they have to be there. They see them as an individual and you want to get to know them on a personal level and figure out how they learn best and what they need. You have to treat each student individually and build a relationship with them.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Maddie: Show me the money! Honestly, if we focused more on teachers’ mental health. Especially in the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of great teachers get out and maybe that’s because they couldn’t handle the stress anymore, or maybe it’s because of the money.
Adam: I think it’s important that teachers know they aren’t wasting their time. They can overcome their struggles if they know they are making a difference with their time.
Maddie: Kids need to be what matters most, and we’re getting to a place where there’s too much in the way of that.
Adam: What’s something that you could use in your classroom?
Maddie: I would say more individual book choices. We have access to several class sets of books. I do independent silent reading at the start start of my English class so students get a chance to read stuff they enjoy.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Maddie: I spent a lot of my time in the fall watching football. I’m a UT fan through and through. I am also a Colts fan, since before Peyton. My dad grew up watching Johnny Unitas play. It kind of fostered from before Peyton, but I still love Peyton! Don’t get me wrong. My husband is a huge Eagles fan. We spend a lot of our time in the fall with football and he also coaches. Soccer and football are my life. I used to play adult league soccer and then I tore my ACL. That’s getting fixed in November and then I can start running again. I enjoy reading. I don’t do it for fun as much as I used to because now I feel guilty if I’m not reading something for school. So that’s tough. I also very much enjoy doing random house projects in my home. Next on my list is redoing my bathroom floors.
Adam: What is a good way for a student or parent to spoil you?
Maddie: Food. Shout out to Double Dogs. I’ll take Double Dogs any day of the week. I’m a Papa John’s fan, too. I love a cheese pizza. I also enjoy coffee. Notes are always amazing! Can’t forget about those.
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