By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Lessons in life
Kids follow moms into education
Mom Daughter Teachers 6 es
Judy Austin’s daughter, Rebecca, talks to a West Forsyth High School student about his plans after graduation. The Austins are one of several mother-child pairs in the local school system. - photo by Emily Saunders
Some Forsyth County teachers take a page from their mother’s lesson plans when it comes to their passion for education.

“I have benefited from having a mom who valued education and pushed me to do my best, and now I get to do that for the students,” said Rebecca Austin, graduation coach at West Forsyth High School.

“My mom is my mentor. She’s my role model. And if I can be half the teacher she is, I can be successful in this profession.”

When she was 6 years old, Austin started helping her mother plan for class and design bulletin boards.

“I became a teacher because of my mom,” she said.

Austin’s mother, Judy, has taught English at North Forsyth High School for 16 years. But her career dates back to 1976, when she started as a U.S. Army teacher.

Judy Austin, who has taught every grade level except for kindergarten, said she’s never had a dull moment.

“I’ve always known this was what I was supposed to do,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

After about a dozen years as a science teacher, Rebecca Austin decided to become a graduation coach.

“I realized I could reach a lot more students if I stepped outside of my classroom,” she said.

Judy Austin’s mother, Ellen Mundy, was also an inspiration.

Mundy was a teacher and later principal at Matt Elementary School.

“There was always a tremendous amount of respect for school, teaching and for learning in our house,” Judy Austin said. “And that all plays into it.”

For Vicki Sexton and son Nick, the foray into education came only after trying another field.

Sexton, a media specialist at Whitlow Elementary, ran a child care center for about a decade before becoming a public librarian.

“I decided to go into education because I ... did youth services as a librarian and I just loved them,” she said of the children.

Nick Sexton credits his mother for his decision to leave the communications field and enter education.

“She encouraged me to substitute,” he said. “I did that for a couple of years and that kind of inspired me.”

Nick Sexton is in his first year as a full-time teacher, working with special education students in sixth-grade math.

“I’m really proud,” Vicki Sexton said. “He’s doing special education too, and that takes a really special person.”

His patience and passion for children stems from his mother, he said.

“She taught me a lot of the lessons about work ethic and doing what needs to be done,” Nick Sexton said. “She’s been a really good inspiration.”
Krystle Lyerly said her mother was also her role model for education.

“We grew up with education being important and that’s just how it’s always been,” she said. “She’s stood by everything I’ve wanted to do.

“She’s recognized how much I’ve loved kids and just gives positive feedback to me.”

Lyerly, a first-grade teacher at Whitlow, grew up surrounded by schools. Her mother, Helen Bennett is an administrative secretary at West and her father, Ron, works for the school district’s maintenance program.

She even married into education. Her husband, Philip, also works at West in the physical education department.

“She’s always got some funny story about something her kids have done,” Helen Bennett said of her daughter. “We tell her to write everything down. She’s had to work hard ... I’m so proud of her.”

While the Austins may joke about their school rivalries, mother and daughter couldn’t be closer.

They share triumphs, frustrations and ideas on how to better engage students.

“Every day that we have preplanning, we meet for lunch,” Rebecca Austin said.