Former Volunteer High School teacher joins Sevier language arts staff

A HELPING HAND. Stephanie Kilgore works with her 8th grade language arts students. Kilgore most recently taught English at Volunteer High School.

Katelyn Burrell

A HELPING HAND. Stephanie Kilgore works with her 8th grade language arts students. Kilgore most recently taught English at Volunteer High School.

This school year, several teachers resigned, so the district had to hire many new teachers. One of these new teachers is Stephine Kilgore, a 31-year-old from Gate City, Virginia who now teaches 8th grade language arts.

“I grew up in Gate City, Virginia, and the only time I moved out of the area was when I attended ETSU in Johnson City,” she said. “I am now back in Gate City, Virginia. I have a bit of a commute to Sevier, but I love working in Kingsport.”

Kilgore has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from ETSU, a Bachelor’s degree in English from ETSU, and a Master’s degree in Education from Milligan. Before coming to Sevier, she taught 9th grade English at Volunteer High School.

Middle school is an awkward time for most students. Kilgore, however, seemed to have a good time. She played basketball, softball, volleyball, and ran track. She also was a girl scout and took ballet and tap-dancing classes.

“Basically, if I was not doing homework or studying, I was at a practice or meeting of some sort,” she said. “When I was at school, I was a social butterfly who loved my English and math classes but dreaded all science-related classes.”

Teachers all teach for different reasons. In Kilgore’s case, she wanted to change the world via children. She believes that the connections built with students will have a lasting impression on them.

“I decided to become a teacher because I believe teaching is a profession where we educators can truly make a difference in both the world we live in now and the world we will leave behind us,” she said. “There is no routine or monotony in being the people that are educating and raising those who will lead their communities in the future.”

Several factors attracted her to the English language and influenced her decision to become a language arts teacher.

“Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, even from the early age of 5-years-old,” she said. “From ‘The Boxcar Children’ to ‘Harry Potter’ to more mature texts, like those by Charles Bukowski and Sylvia Plath, I have always been fascinated by the fictional or poetic elements of reading.”

Naturally, it was a teacher who impacted her love of literature the most

“In Ms. Perry’s senior English class, her obvious love for literature inspired my love for literature more profoundly,” she said. “She is a staple in who I’ve become as an ELA educator.”

There are pros and cons to being an educator, even for Kilgore.

“It’s a conundrum, really; the best part is being able to reach so many students through education and positive connections, but the worst part is not being able to reach every single student and feeling that some slip through the cracks,” she said.

Since she has taught for many years, Kilgore has many positive memories of her students.

“During my final full year at Volunteer, I was the advisor for its key club,” she said. “The president of the club and all of its members hosted an event for the community during Halloween where we set up the first VHS Key Club trunk-or-treat event. We had more than 250 costumed kids come to the event and it was so exciting to see my students engaged in the community like that.”

There are, of course, also some least favorite memories. For Kilgore, this happened as recently as this past August, while she was still employed at Volunteer High School.

“Deputies and police officers swarmed the school campus, armed and loaded,” she said. “To keep it short, it was a day full of fear and uncertainty for both students and teachers, all because someone made a ‘swatting’ call where he claimed to be a shooter inside of Volunteer, ready to open fire on the school. I am so thankful it wasn’t a real shooting, but it was by far my worst memory as an educator. Thankfully, the alleged perpetrator was arrested.”

Moving to a new school has several challenges, especially when it is one’s first time teaching in a middle school setting. So far, Kilgore’s only challenges have included adjusting to a whole new curriculum and set of standards after teaching 9th grade for seven years.

“While it has been a bit of a challenge, I have really enjoyed it,” she said. “Support from both administrators and teachers have made me feel successful in that challenge.”

Even though she has not been at Sevier long yet, she has found much to like at her new school.

“I admire the teamwork and collaboration between teachers, specifically my team,” she said. “Mrs. Watts and Mrs. Wagner have not only kept me afloat in my transition to this school, but they have taught me to swim all the possible strokes.”

She also loves the clubs, classes, and opportunities Sevier offers its students.

“For example, this newspaper and all that goes into it will be such an asset for all of these young journalists, no matter which path they choose in their post-secondary lives,” she said.

Kilgore also has a piece of advice for her students.

“Keep your heads up and persevere through the hard times,” she said. “The world is at your feet and what you do now has an impact on your future happiness and success.”