“I was actually going to be a classical musician. I had a full ride to four major universities, and I spent my first year in college as a music major with a 4.0 and it was awesome. Toward the end of that year, I just really felt like God was calling me to be a teacher, and I didn’t really have a fondness for working with science or with young people at the time,” Freeman said. “For about a month I wrestled with it and [thought], ‘This doesn’t make any sense because I’ve devoted the last 10 years of my life to being a musician.’ So I kind of felt like God wanted me to throw away everything I had done, and I was like, ‘God, I don’t want to do that.’
“There was a lady at my church who taught me science when I was a child and I happened to run into her one day, and we just had this really cool conversation about being a teacher and I took that as a sign that I need to go change my major. ... The next day I changed my major with no previous interest in being a teacher. I think this whole [Teacher of the Year recognition] is confirmation that I was right in doing that.”
She said the most rewarding aspect of teaching is seeing students grow and overcome obstacles in order to make a better future for themselves.
“A lot of the kids, by the time they get here, a lot of people have kind of given up on them and we have a really strange demographic at our school. We have really excellent kids whose parents just love them and do everything for them, and then we have kids from a lower socionomic background and they don’t always have parents at home and they don’t always have support,” Freeman said. “I myself grew up in a trailer park. We were dirt poor, and my mom worked 70 hours a week at Wal-Mart and I can relate to those kids.
“Not every day, but every once and a while, I’ll have [a student] who will get that first science credit after the third attempt and they’ll be like, ‘Wow, this isn’t so bad.’ I had one kid drop out about a month ago, but she came back because she was passing my class and was like, ‘... Maybe if I can get my grades up in my other classes then I can finish this year.’ I definitely get those attitude changes and those changes of disposition of kids who have kind of been given up on, and I tell them, ‘I realize you go to work every night at a gas station and you work from 8 o’clock to 1 o’clock’ and I get that because I had to work when I was in school to pay my bills ... and I relate to them.”
While the field of teaching comes with seeing students reach personal goals, it also requires students to meet goals set on the state and national levels.
“The most difficult thing, since I’ve been a teacher, is I’m on my third set of curriculum,” Freeman said. “... I really feel that most teachers want to do what is expected of them, they want to meet targets and bring student achievement to where people are dictating that should be, but this bullseye we’ve been asked to hit has been moved and, unfortunately with budget cuts, the professional development time to train us on this curriculum and get us pointed in the next and new direction we’re going — that support isn’t there.
“Because we don’t have professional learning days anymore ... they’re giving us something new to do, but unless you’re very motivated, which I am — I take the time on my own to read and take the classes — if you don’t do that, you don’t always get prepared to meet those new challenges.”
She said she appreciates the support of Superintendent John Harper and the Bartow County Board of Education as well as the support of the WHS faculty and administration.
“I continue to work here at Woodland because of the support I get, the students are great and I’m treated well as a professional,” Freeman said.
Freeman lives in Paulding County with her husband and two children and has taught in Bartow County for the past seven of eight years. She graduated from the University of West Georgia with bachelor’s, specialist and master’s degrees.