Watkins bids farewell to teaching middle school

FINAL COUNTDOWN. Math teacher Liesel Watkins, seen here with her father, retired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Courtesy of Liesel Watkins

FINAL COUNTDOWN. Math teacher Liesel Watkins, seen here with her father, retired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

ShayLeigh Honaker, Staff Writer

All teachers retire at some point. One of Sevier Middle’s longest serving and most popular teachers, Liesel Watkins has joined their ranks.

Watkins was a 7th-grade teacher who taught Math and Algebra.

Growing up, Watkins lived on a military base which was a different way of life. She was very involved as a middle school student.

“When I was in middle school I was in the band,” Watkins said. “I played the flute and I played the piano. I also played basketball, volleyball and softball.”

Watkins was in middle school when she realized she wanted to be a math teacher.

“I had an algebra teacher at Sullivan North, her name was Mrs. Spain,” she said. “She influenced me in the field of mathematics. I wanted to help and inspire others just as she had inspired me.”

Watkins attended multiple colleges and did very well during her years in college. Watkins holds both  a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education.

“I attended Middle Tennessee State University from 1986-1988 I double majored in Mathematics and Professional Pilot Studies,” Watkins said. “I then transferred to East Carolina University in 1989 and received my teaching degree from East Carolina University. I have taken graduate classes at East Tennessee State University as well as Tusculum College, the latter of which I earned a graduate degree.”

Watkins has taught at several other schools than Sevier Middle. While teaching at those schools, she has also taught in several different grade levels.

She started her teaching career at Greenwood Middle School in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where she taught Algebra and Geometry to ninth graders.

“I was then hired the night before the students arrived and my first year proved to be one of the best learning experiences of my life,” she said. “In the next two years, I taught math and science to accelerated seventh-grade students and team-taught with an excellent teacher who became a dear friend. Moving to seventh grade was a big change from teaching ninth graders, but I loved it.”

When she moved to Vance Middle School in Bristol, Tennessee in 1994, she taught Math 8 and Algebra to eighth-grade students.

Watkins and her husband both had family in Kingsport, so the two of them moved. Watkins lived in Bristol for five years, and when she got the chance, she moved and got a job at Sevier Middle.

“For the past 21 years, I have been at John Sevier Middle School teaching seventh and eighth-grade students math,” Watkins said.

Watkins has many favorite things about being a teacher. One of her most favorite things is watching her students grow and change.

There are also some things she didn’t enjoy so much.

“One thing that I don’t like is the pay not being commensurate with the degrees earned and mandatory in-service that was not beneficial,” she said. “Something that I dislike about teaching is Eureka Math and early morning duty. Also having to do the standardized testing. Students and teachers should not be judged on one 90 minute test.”

Over the time Watkins has taught, she has had many memorable moments.

“One of my most memorable moments as a teacher has to be the time when we celebrated pi day,” she said. “Me and a fellow teacher set up a pie-throwing event. Needless to say, the principal wasn’t too happy when a teacher got pied in the face.”

During her retirement, Watkins plans to take some deserved time off.

“I will be fixing up houses, including the house me and my husband just bought in Bristol,” she said. “I also plan to read more books, travel, exercise, deliver ‘Meals on Wheels’, and who knows, maybe take a real estate class.”

Watkins has some advice for the students at Sevier.

“Don’t be tied to technology,” she said. “Instead, read a book, exercise, and spend time with friends and family.”

Watkins also has some advice for the teachers she is leaving behind.

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” she said. “Love the students first, teach them second.”

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