Originally, Mrs. Vance wanted to be a broadcaster. She went to the University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina intending to earn her degree in English Journalism, but decided to pursue teaching after her freshman year. She transferred to Georgia State, where she graduated with a degree in English rhetoric and secondary education.
That decision blossomed into her career: she’s now in her twenty-first year of teaching. She taught for three years at Manchester High School and has spent the last eighteen at Northgate, where she teaches American Literature and AP English Language. To Mrs. Vance, teaching English came naturally. “As a kid, I loved school,” she says. “…I liked to learn and I liked to read, so English just seemed a normal fit. I was always writing short stories and poems.”
She attributes her passion for English and writing to the teachers she had growing up. All of them encouraged her to read and write, but Mrs. Vance was most impacted by Lane Sweezey, one of her high school English teachers. “She reminds me a lot of the teacher in Dead Poet Society. She was just… crazy,” Mrs. Vance says. “… She was always so excited about everything that we read. She’s probably the reason I like English as much as I do.”
Junior Kennedy Eltz says Mrs. Vance arrives each day with the same type of enthusiasm. “…She’s always so excited to be there. …She’s always happy and smiling.” Eltz also says that in the time she’s been in her class, she’s grown as a writer and learned how to express her thoughts and ideas in a more clear way.
Senior Natalie Caylor also speaks of the way Mrs. Vance has helped her improve her writing skills. “My thought process, when it comes to writing, is definitely more clear and more effective,” she says.
Perhaps her students’ growth can be partially attributed to the relaxed setting of the classroom. “She’s very creative in the activities she [has] us do, and she lets us do things in our own way,” Caylor explains. “Her class isn’t so rigid it’s impossible to keep up with, and it… flows at the pace that works best for us.”
To junior Jake Carson, the most noticeable thing about Mrs. Vance is the way she puts her students first. “…She’s not a teacher that just comes in and gets stuff done. …She talks to us; she wants to get to know us.” But more than that, he says, she cares about his personal achievement in her class. “… She really cares about my learning course. She [takes time] to talk to me about what I need to work on. That just impacted me because no teacher has really [taken] the time and cared about that kind of thing.”
That’s because for Mrs. Vance, her job is about more than teaching Literature. She wants her students to be successful beyond the classroom. “[I want them to know] that they have a voice and an ability to think for themselves. I want them… to be able to speak and think and write and make good decisions,” she says. To help them build those skills, she facilitates discussions on a variety of topics ranging from the book they’re reading to current issues. During these discussions, students are able to share their thoughts and opinions openly and without fear of being judged.
Though she reads various books with her classes, Edgar Allen Poe is a personal favorite author of hers. “I am obsessed,” she admits. “…He is so creative and imaginative.” But while Poe used his creativity to write, Mrs. Vance uses hers to develop an environment which pushes students to grow and reach their full potential. By giving them assignments which force them to think outside the box, she’s preparing them for life beyond high school and impacting hundreds of lives along the way.