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Grovetown High teacher is first returning alumna

Posted: August 15, 2015 - 11:01pm
Tabitha Colbert, a Grovetown High School English teacher,  is the first former student to return to the school as a teacher.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Tabitha Colbert, a Grovetown High School English teacher, is the first former student to return to the school as a teacher.

Tabitha Colbert remembers a particular teacher at Grovetown High School igniting her passion for the English language.

Four years later, on the first day of school nearly two weeks ago, Colbert returned to those hallowed halls, but as a teacher.

Colbert said her first day of school was a bit surreal and she often gets confused with the students.

“I had a lot of people ask if I was a student,” Colbert said. “It’s a little terrifying. There were a lot of days over the summer where I could just sit and think about being in a room alone with teenagers and it was a little bit scary.”

Though she admits she’s still learning how to be the authority figure, Colbert said she found a way to bond with her students. Her classroom, which she spent all summer preparing, is decorated with lots of pop culture mementoes including a Doctor Who poster and others referencing the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series.

“They seemed a little bit thrown off by how young I look,” Colbert said. A lot of them came in and saw my posters hanging up. We had an instant spark and something to talk about because there are popular topics.”

Colbert said her first day of school was long and exhausting since she spent about 12 hours at the school that day.

Colbert transferred to Grovetown High for her junior and senior years. She wasn’t just an ordinary student; she stood out as the school’s second valedictorian and STAR Student in 2011. She even has her Most Likely to Succeed superlative sash hanging from a cabinet doorknob in her classroom.

Because the school is new, Colbert is also the first alumna to return as a teacher.

“Certainly, we all remember her,” Principal Craig Baker said, adding every teacher eventually ends up working with a former student. “All of us have had that situation happen. For Grovetown High, she was the perfect one to start that trend. We’re glad to have her back.

“She’s fitting in great. She’s got a great personality, great energy. She’s passionate about education. So she’s fitting in well. We love her.”

Colbert said she was just finishing up student teaching before graduating from the University of Georgia when the stars aligned and she found an English teacher opening at her alma mater. She didn’t think twice about returning.

“I really liked my time at Grovetown,” Colbert said. “I have a lot of memories of this place. They are good memories. I really enjoyed my time here. It’s just weird because everything is familiar, but also completely new because I’m doing it from a different perspective.

“I felt like this place did a lot for my education, more than it might have done at other schools. I wanted to be a part of that.”

As the school’s 2011 STAR Student, Colbert named her English teacher Kim Buchanan as her STAR Teacher because she fostered her love of writing and the English language and encouraged her to challenge herself.

Now, Colbert said she’s excited to work with Buchanan, who is the chair of the English department, as a peer. Colbert, Buchanan and other English teachers work together to plan common goals and lesson plans.

“Ms. Buchanan, she was like my hero in high school,” Colbert said. “I thought she was the coolest person ever. She really changed the way that I think about the English language. I kind of wanted to be her and (now I’m) working with her, which is great.”

Colbert said during her year student teaching in Winder, Ga., she did all of the planning herself. So participating in team planning is less stress and she gets to learn from the expertise of her more experienced colleagues.

“Here, I’ve got such a supportive team,” Colbert said. “There’s just a lot of support here, which wasn’t always the case (for me).”

Though she’s a new teacher, at least one of her former teachers recognized the natural teacher potential in her years ago.

Assistant Principal Vicki Tarleton said she taught trigonometry to Colbert and said she was always a lot of in the classroom.

“She was intuitive, but she always had a passion for the kids in class that did not understand,” Tarleton said. “She was always very eager to help people She would even try to re-explain stuff sometimes in class when she could tell people were asking questions and didn’t understand.

“She was an amazing student.”

With the first day behind her, Colbert said she’s still adjusting to being at the front of the classroom and making it her own.

“I was more nervous on the second day,” Colbert said. “I felt like the first day had already passed, I had no excuses for messing up now.”

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