By Missy Wattenbarger
Even when she was a young student herself, Cynthia Webb, Cumberland County Teacher of the Year for pre-kindergarten to fourth grade, knew she wanted to positively impact and shape the lives of others through education.
"It was God's calling on my life," she said. "By my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. That's what I was supposed to do. I just knew it."
Webb began taking courses offered by Tennessee Technological University while in high school and made it her mission to finish college as quickly as possible so she could begin teaching. She earned her bachelor's degree from the university in just three years before moving on to get her master's.
"I just couldn't get through it quick enough," she said. "I guess that's one reason I did it in three years. I was just so anxious. It was a stepping stone to get to this, which is what I always wanted, and I love it!"
Webb has been happily teaching fourth grade ever since. This year marks her 30th year in the profession. She dedicated 20 years of her career at South Cumberland Elementary before transferring to Homestead Elementary where her father, Lyndon Pippin, served as principal for 18 years. She is now in her 10th year at her "old stomping ground," and the children continue to be her favorite part of her job.
"They are my kids during this period of time, and the things we say and do in here do have a lasting impact. That's why my goals are not only to try and give them the best education they need, but to also help shape them to be the best person they can possibly be," said Webb.
She strives to make every day interesting and fun for her students by incorporating a variety of strategies and practices, such as creating an inspiring learning environment, using a mixture of different techniques and devices so each student has challenging lessons with attainable goals and utilizing the analysis of assessment to ensure that all her students grow and learn.
"We have to be here everyday, and I don’t want it to be a drudgery for them or for me... You can’t make every lesson a ‘ooh ahh’ kind of thing, but try to make it as enjoyable as possible,” she said.
Webb begins each school year establishing a feeling of family among her students. Despite all the shifts in education, Webb believes relationships must be established before any teaching methodology will work. She sees every student as a valuable member of her family and her classroom as a place where they can freely express themselves.
"We are respectful and supportive of each other whether sharing laughter, tears or cheers," she said. “Ideas and opinions are expressed in a safe and receptive atmosphere where we strive to make learning positive and relevant to life.”
In her letter of recommendation for Webb as Teacher of the Year, Principal Robin Pinder pointed out that her students consistently achieve academic success because of Webb’s focus on higher-order thinking skills and engagement in hands-on learning activities. Plus, she constantly promotes their positives before noting their negatives.
"I rarely visit her classroom that she isn't bragging on an accomplishment of one of her students...,” wrote Pinder. “Her praise is real, not merely empty words, because she is determined to see the best in each child."
Amanda Cunningham, seventh-grade teacher at Homestead Elementary, said in her letter of recommendation that Webb stands out amongst her peers because of her “seemingly endless” love and passion for teaching and her students.
"What is unique about Mrs. Webb is that she does not strive to earn teaching awards or recognition, but simply to make a difference in a child’s life through inspiration and believing in each and every one of them,” she wrote.
Webb is quick to admit that watching her students reach their goals in both academics and character development is one of the most prominent rewards of teaching.
"Second are the relationships I form and maintain with my students and their families for years after they've moved on from my classroom," she said.
She often receives letters of appreciation and visits from former students and their parents. Some of the greatest and most humbling recognition she has received are from students thanking her for inspiring them to enter the teaching field.
"To me, that’s tremendous,” she said.
Webb has been married to Mark Webb for 26 years. Her children are her students and she loves receiving updates about their future accomplishments.