So many students, teachers

Published 3:17 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

From left, RMS cheer sponsor Ashley Davis Bryant and RMS dance sponsor Jana Lee. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“I heard about a job,” my former student Ashley Davis told me excitedly in December 2009. “A seventh-grade English teacher at Riverchase Middle is about to take maternity leave. Her name is Hand.”

“You must mean Nicole Metcalf Hand,” I laughed. “Yes, I taught Mrs. Hand too.”

As thrilled as I was for my former student to find work at RMS, the fact that she was taking over for another one of my former students was a bit sobering.

Since my youngest daughter is a seventh-grader at RMS this year, I’ve gotten to spend lots of bleacher time with Davis, who married last spring break and became Ashley Davis Bryant.

Bryant was an exceptional writer in my classroom. As a student in my classes, Bryant took on difficult challenges.

A fierce, passionate writer, pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in professional writing from UAB seemed Bryant’s perfect path.

Teaching English came to Bryant by way of China. In 2009, Bryant traveled to China to teach English to high school and college students.

“I spent over two weeks in Jiamusi, China, teaching students conversational English,” Bryant said. “That experience prompted me to seek my master’s degree in English.”

In December, Bryant will graduate with a master’s degree in secondary education English language arts.

Bryant is happy to see Shelby County Schools switching from separate reading and English classes for seventh- and eighth-graders to dedicated 90-minute blocks for English language arts this year.

“Shelby County’s transition to English Language Arts is positive,” Bryant said. “Students can identify grammar within the literature and write about their reading.”

Working many hours each week as cheer sponsor keeps Bryant busy.

“Being cheerleading sponsor enables me to be involved with all sports all year,“ Bryant said. “It’s great to see my students outside of the classroom doing something they enjoy. I love working with the cheerleaders. They keep me on my toes.”

Returning to Pelham to teach adds a little wonder to Bryant’s experience.

“My students are shocked to hear that, not long ago, I was a student at RMS, and that some of their teachers were also my teachers.”

I know how they feel. I’m stunned that this recent student of mine is now an amazingly accomplished professional. Mostly, I am tremendously proud of Ashley Davis Bryant­­­­­ — and thrilled to call her my coworker.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at