PROFILE: Giving Moore

Evelyn Moore, an English teacher at Montevallo Middle School, talks to her class about writing using descriptive details during class on Nov. 10. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By SAMANTHA HURST / For the Reporter

A groggy Betsy Moore pulls herself out from under the covers, exhausted from a busy night before of fixing dinner, getting kids to bed, straightening the kitchen and grading papers.

She knows by the yawn erupting from her lungs that this will be a long day. All the same, she pulls herself together.

“Even on my worst day I could be someone’s greatest hope,” she said. “If I’m having a bad day, I just can’t take that out on my kids.”

Her kids include her own four children and her seventh-graders at Montevallo Middle School.

Principal Sheila Lewis said she has supervised many novice teachers, yet Moore epitomizes the term “tenacious” more than any she’s worked with before.

“Moore has qualities I wish many of my veteran teachers possessed,” Lewis said. “She has love for her students — a determination to teach the whole child despite the many obstacles she must first overcome.”

One part of those obstacles involves navigating life as a teacher when she never thought she’d be one.

Moore and her family moved to Shelby County when she was 14. After graduating from Thompson High School she spent four years in the Army before spending the next seven working as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s office.

Moore said through both experiences she encountered people she knew had missed out on opportunities that could have changed their lives for the better.

So, at 34, with kids, Moore enrolled in college.

Three days after graduation, she put marker to whiteboard as a teacher at Montevallo Middle.

“When your parents are teachers, you swear you are never going to want to do what your parents do,” she said. “But I thought, ‘Wow, if I was teaching in school I could provide people with direction.’ I think through everything I had seen I felt the best way to make a lasting change was to go into education.”

Despite difficulties Moore has faced in just her second year, she refuses to give in. Lewis said the seventh grade class is the most challenging group in the school, but Moore truly loves them.

“Every kid has something good about them and I do believe that,” said Moore. “Even the toughest kids have value in them. Sometimes they just need somebody to show them some grace.”

Moore makes an effort to really know her students.

Some of them need to know you care about them, she said, but might need to be left to their own. Others might require more direct attention during and after class.

She tries not to pry but also makes an effort to let them know she sees they may not be 100 percent that day, but she’s there for them.

It’s not about teaching a lesson and hoping the kids figure it out themselves. Moore aims to gauge a child’s needs by their behavior, Lewis said, and then instructs them based on those needs.

This requires creativity and dedication.

Moore works long hours, coming in at 6:30 a.m. and not leaving before 6 p.m. Her lessons are very creative and engaging, Lewis said. Moore conducts tutorial sessions every morning she doesn’t have assigned breakfast duty and offers opportunities for students to re-test if they haven’t received a passing grade.

Coworkers voted Moore “Faculty Member of the Month” in December. She was even selected by Alabama Power to receive a New Teacher Grant of $1,000 during her first year. The grant allowed her to purchase additional supplies and materials.

Moore also served as the school’s track coach this year.

Many of the team members were not financially able to pay the track donation. This placed quite a burden on the team.

Attending their first meet, MMS runners showed up at the starting line in plain gym shorts and faced teasing from opposing schools.

Moore couldn’t handle allowing her kids to face that embarrassment again, so she went out and solicited funds from friends, neighbors and relatives to help with uniforms, transportation and tournament entrance fees.

The MMS track team finished second in the county tournament last year.

Moore arrives to school equipped not only with lesson plans, track uniforms and patience, but often with Walmart gift cards.

Moore has seen the reality of what the families of some of her students are facing. To go a step beyond her role as teacher, she makes a point to budget enough money to purchase regular Walmart gift cards, which she then presents to the school counselor to give to any family they find in need, Lewis said.

Moore asks for no recognition for these acts of compassion. She said she doesn’t want any child to feel uncomfortable around her because she knows their family is in need.

“I feel very blessed in my life, I feel very fortunate to have a job and my kids are healthy. I can’t imagine what some of these kids do go through,” she said. “I don’t know who needs it but if I can spare it why not.”

This still-green teacher knows she has so much more to learn about disciplining students but she knows they can all grow together.

“I’m always happy I made the choice to go back and teach. The greatest thing about teaching is watching the kids just enjoy themselves,” she said. “Even beyond that though is when you see them enjoying school; enjoying learning. When you can see that pure joy in their eyes — that’s the best part for me.”

*Editor’s Note: This story ran in our Profile 2011 special section. The annual publication was inserted into our Feb. 23 edition of the Shelby County Reporter. Copies are available at the Shelby County Reporter office.