Moss Point School District staff members felt renewed when they returned to work after the holiday season. The district provided staff development that included sessions on everything from building relationships to classroom management. One of the highlights of the day was the opening session which included an inspirational speech from our very own Courtney Caples. Ms. Caples is a 2005 Moss Point graduate and a teacher at Kreole Elementary. Her moving speech is printed below in its entirety. Enjoy!
I am extremely honored to have the privilege of speaking to such an elite group of professionals. When I was asked to be the speaker for today, I thought, “what in the world can I say to my teachers, to the group of people who were responsible for my being where I am today besides, thank you?” I’ve been asked to speak about my experience as a recent graduate of the Moss Point School District after having attained my degree and deciding to come back home.
Education has always been an area of my life where passion has exploded. Teaching has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Even now, everyday in my classroom is such a surreal experience. I look around my room in awe, and sometimes I’ll even open my door and say “Man, that really is my name!” There is nothing more fulfilling and rewarding than having the opportunity to live your dreams. I’ve always imagined a day when I would come back and speak to the Moss Point staff, but I’ll have to be honest, although I am here speaking now, this day isn’t it. I’ll tell you why. I imagined coming back as Dr. Caples which means I’ve got more degrees to get, and I’m not stopping until I get them. I imagined coming back to a nationally ranked high performing school district, in a state of the art facility, with top of the line technology. I’d argue that we have that now. I imagined coming back to a district with a record for the most nationally board certified teachers in one district, a district where students were recognized for competing in international academic competitions, and a community who rendered unwavering support. I’m not sure how many people know exactly where I’m coming from, but in Proverbs 29:18 it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I do not know about you Moss Point family, but I can see that image just as clear as day, and I can’t wait until I’m able to bear witness to such a phenomenal success story.
A little over four years ago, in 2005, I graduated from Moss Point High School where I truly had the time of my life! I went on to the University of Southern Mississippi where I attained my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
Throughout my college career, I had the privilege of serving in several different school districts. I’ve served in districts whose test scores reflect superiority and those who struggled with academic performance, but there’s no place like home. Moss Point School District provided for me a love for learning and a will to succeed that I’ll always believe I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. It was right here on this very stage that I learned how to address an audience of this magnitude and assert the knowledge that I had attained. It was that confidence and assertiveness that led me to acquire the positions of Girls’ State governor, student body president, and marching band drum major, just to name a few. It was here that I learned how to ask questions, take authority of my learning, and responsibility for my actions. Those skills transferred to the collegiate level where they helped me to become a member of an international education honor society, Kappa Delta Pi, a McNair Scholar, and Magna Cum Laude honors college graduate. It all started right here in the Moss Point School District.
Coming back home for me was never an option because I truly believe charity begins at home and then spreads abroad. I told Mr. Molden, who was my high school principal at the time, that I was leaving, but in 4 years I would be back as Ms. Caples. This time I wouldn’t be answering the roll, I would be calling the roll. I also told Mr. Staley that I would be leaving again, but when I returned, I would be Dr. Caples, looking for an office, not a classroom.
I absolutely love my job as an educator, and I’m a product of your great work. I could stand forever and talk about all of the success stories that have come out of this district. The challenge now is to keep that level of productivity in progress. How many more doctors, lawyers, skilled professionals, talented educators, innovative entrepreneurs, world known artists and poets can we produce? Truly there is no limit.
Today’s progress is but a small piece of the monument of success that is being built here in our district, and each one of you plays an integral part in its construction. So, take it from just an average kid who made it through, has seen just a small part of the world, and has come back home to help out, that the work you’ve done and that you continue to do is not in vain. When you speak, children listen. When you teach, children learn. When you model, children practice that behavior. When you perform, children progress. There is no doubt in my mind that everything that we need to be the number one school district in the world is right here in our midst. We have the capable students, a competitive curriculum, top of the line technology, talented teachers, able administrators, and a caring community.
Teachers, administrators, educational professionals, community leaders, support staff and friends, “Be Encouraged!” Right now is the perfect chance to continue to pay it forward. What better way to see the fruits of your labor than to plant that seed in the lives of our youth.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge my Kreole family. I had the privilege of completing my final student teaching experience at Kreole Elementary. I was so fortunate to be placed among a group of true professionals who took me under their wings and made sure that I had everything I needed to be successful, and I’m eternally grateful to be an official member of such a loving and wonderful family. We all know the CURRENT academic status of Kreole elementary. I say this not to remind you of where we are, but to serve notice about where we’re going. Under the superb leadership of Mrs. Icy Tolbert, Kreole is moving toward a level of academic excellence where those who don’t know the power of success will not be able to understand. In that same text where I found Proverbs 29:18, I also read in Matthew 20:16 where it says, “So the last shall be first.” Moss Point School District we are well on our way.
I want to leave you with my personal philosophy of education, and it begins with a series of questions.
What is a house with no foundation? What is a car with no wheels? What is a chair with no legs? What is a pen with no ink? Think about it.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom. How befitting for a classroom teacher. When I think about the term philosophy as it relates to education, I think about what do I, as an educator, believe and value as truth? How do I view teaching, and why do I want to teach? How can I make a difference? As I embark upon this educational endeavor, I begin with an end in mind. My goal is simply to make a difference in the lives of our youth through effective, efficient instruction in a safe and conducive learning environment. Emerging as the fourth generation of educators, I too have a sincere desire to spread knowledge. Teachers, I believe that we are the most important people in the world. We supply the vaccine, which is knowledge, to an ever increasing disease called ignorance. We have been charged with the honorable task of shaping our nation.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” Education is the key element to success. For me, teaching is not a profession, but a calling. Ephesians 4:11 says, “and He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers.” Teachers, we are Talented Educators who Actively Cultivate the Human mind in Every way Remotely possible. I believe teaching is a multi-faceted commitment that encompasses an endless array of other occupations. Mother, father, counselor, and friend are just a few roles we will play in the lives of our students. As teachers, I believe we have the opportunity to change our world one classroom at a time.
I believe in facilitating student growth and change by implementing effective classroom management plans that will foster student achievement, encourage academic excellence, and build a community of learners. All students should be expected to adhere to the rules and policies of the classroom and school.
Behavior expectations should be established at the beginning of the school year but should be adapted and adjusted accordingly. Classroom management is a key ingredient in student success; therefore, proper plans should be in place to ensure students’ safety, learning, and overall well being.
As teachers in a diverse society, my desire is for us to grow. The opportunities to expand our horizons have no end in sight. I believe we can show continual growth by committing to be life long learners. My vow is to provide the best education possible without prejudice; for ignorance has no bias victims. As educators, informed individuals, and concerned citizens of society, we are the bridge between ignorance and knowledge. We hold the key that unlocks the door to our young people’s future, and I humbly accept the challenge of opening doors around the world.
I believe that every child has the right to succeed, and it is up to us to open those doors of opportunity. It is my personal objective to ensure that every student leaves with more than he/she comes with. Students’ success and safety should be our priority.
I conclude with the answers to my initial questions. What is a house with no foundation? What is a car with no wheels? What is a chair with no legs? What is a pen with no ink? Simply, a life with no teachers.