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FRIDAY FACULTY FEATURE: Watkins’ Wise Words

The ins-and-outs of the English teacher’s daily life, teaching experience, memories and useful advice.
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media by Dee Lee
English teacher Andrew Watkins smiles at the entrance walls of his classroom Dec. 4. Watkins’ classroom is lined with posters, pictures and gifts from students that showcase his teaching experience. “I am still excited about what I teach,” Watkins said, “And hopefully that comes across. Although teaching wasn’t my plan, I’m glad I did it. It worked out. I’m very grateful for the people I’ve met.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8% of teachers leave the teaching industry every year. And yet, despite these increasing turnover rates, English teacher Andrew Watkins has stayed a teacher across the country and the Front Range for 31 years. 

Watkins’ classroom sits at the back of the 4000s pod, filled with windows displaying a mountain view and walls shrouded with mounds of student and school paraphernalia. Each and every poster, photo, drawing and flyer tells a story spanning throughout his extensive teaching career. 

Having taught various classes including Yearbook, Photojournalism and more, Watkins centers his teaching around English. Watkins currently teaches English II Honors, Concurrent Enrollment English and Literature of Film.

Over his long career, Watkins has amassed a strew of anecdotes, memories and advice for teachers and students alike. 

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: This is my 31st year.

Q: How did you pursue teaching as your career?

A: Originally, I wasn’t going to go into teaching, and I was going to be a high school counselor. Then my aunt, who was a teacher back when I first started, said in order to be a counselor in Missouri, you have to have three years of teaching experience. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll go [into teaching] and I’ll go get a job in counseling.”

Q: What do you find interesting about English and teaching it as a subject?

A: I love books. I love literature. I love the fact that we get to pick out what we want to teach at Rock Canyon. I feel like that’s a nice perk to have. So that freedom, [and] the creativity to choose the curriculum, is what I like about teaching English.

Q: What is your best memory teaching?

A: I had a really good lesson plan, a really good short story that I handed out to an AP class. And [the lesson] went really well, better than I expected. It was a particular story from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” Also, you know, a student saying thank you is always good.

Q: What does a typical school day look like for you?

A: Well, it’s changed in the last few years. So, currently, I don’t sleep well. I get up at about 4:30 a.m. I start by reading a newspaper and then I start grading or planning. At school, I have my classes and my off periods, and then I eat lunch and go home. I try to work out, or, since my wife works from home now, I try to eat with my wife because she’s always [saying,] “You’re always out grading or doing other stuff,” so I try to just have a little bit of downtime. So I do that, I come home, I cook dinner and I’ll either watch a little TV or do stuff depending on what the next day brings. I would imagine that’s like a lot of students’ [days]. Then, I go to bed. This is so embarrassing, but I try to go to bed at about 8:30 p.m.

Q: What is one crazy student story you have?

A: I’ve had the craziest one in kind of a funny way, but not funny, and it happened here at Rock Canyon. I was trying to make a joke with a kid and I said something about his mom. It was a “your mom” joke and the kid got up and was like, “What did you say about my mom?” I was trying to make a joke, and in my house, that’s my signature [joke]. So my family laughs at those, and they know I’m not serious. But for this kid, I was like, “What do I do?” I made more “your mom” jokes and I was like “My mom is so dumb that she’s…” you know, and so it helped to alleviate it, but that was something.

Q: What’s one thing you want anyone reading this to know about you?

A: I want my students to think I’m a fair person. I don’t know why that’s a big deal [to me]. I am still excited about what I teach, and hopefully, that comes across clearly. Although teaching wasn’t my plan, I’m glad I did it. It worked out. I’m very grateful for the people I’ve met.

Q: Do you have any life advice or something you think everyone should live by?

A: This is in my syllabus! Life isn’t about getting away with stuff, it’s about what you can become. And I have to be the first to admit, I didn’t follow that advice in high school at all. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I really adhered to that. Just do your best. Don’t just get the grade, don’t just get the dollar, take pride in doing the best work that you can do. It’s cliche to say, but even if you’re a garbage collector, be the best garbage collector. Take pride in your work ethic, and have a good work ethic.

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