Beth LaFond-Nash had been a stay-at-home mom for her daughter and son for many years, but as they started to get older, she realized she couldn’t simply stay at home while they were in school.
Her mom suggested that she learn something new or find a new hobby. But LaFond-Nash knew she wanted to do more.
That was when she headed back to school, enrolling at the University of North Georgia. At the time, she didn’t have a plan for what she wanted to do with her schooling.
“I thought maybe I could just learn everything,” she said.
School: Liberty Middle School
Years teaching: 7
While she was in school, she said she was much older than most of her classmates, who were enrolling just out of high school. Whenever they struggled to study or prepare for a class, the mom in her took over and always offered help.
Then one day, one of the younger students said something that changed the course of her life: “You know, you’d be a great teacher.”
LaFond-Nash began taking education courses, and instantly fell in love.
She earned an internship teaching at Liberty Middle School where former Principal Connie Stovall eventually offered her a full-time position. Now, she is in her eighth year of teaching there.
Thanks to that love for kids and teaching, the community voted for LaFond-Nash as the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for July. The FCS spoke with her about her experience going back to college, her first year of teaching enrichment and what it’s like to coach middle school cheerleading.
Was it scary to take that leap and go back to school?
“It was, especially doing it much later. I remember everyone during rush, and all of them are young, fresh out of high school, brand new college students. And I have two kids and a mortgage.
“Someone said, ‘Oh my gosh, you could totally rush with us. We let old people in, like 22-23 [years old].’ And I just thought, oh no,” she said, laughing. “But it made me feel good.
“But it turns out school is something I’m just naturally good at, and I wasn’t good at school when I was in high school and middle school. It was actually pretty terrible, and that’s really what I strive to do now in teaching middle school.
“[I want] to make sure that the kids are OK, that school is better for them and that they walk away with a good experience and know there is at least one person that they can come to that cares about them, that loves them, that just wants them to have the best day ever.”
Do you prioritize that type of care in your classroom?
“Yes, you have to show [that you care]. I don’t teach anything until I know all of their names, and I was so proud of myself — this year, I learned every student's name the first day they were in my class.”
What do you teach?
“Normally, I teach seventh grade science, but this year, I’m working on something different.
“We’re developing a new class called enrichment for our fifth academic [class], and instead of it being more of a study hall like it has been in the past, we changed it completely where we’re focusing on the whole child and their wellbeing and some of the social and emotional learning strategies that they really need at this age.
“It's called enrichment. So instead of just content literacy and helping them in each of their classes, we’re helping them really to develop as a person. To be more self-aware, learn some self-management techniques. If you’re more secure with yourself, you can do better in school.”
How have you liked teaching enrichment so far?
“At first, it was just different because I’ve taught life science for so long that it just comes natural, but this change has forced me to think outside the box and reevaluate some of my teaching practices and try some new things.”
I know you also coach the football and competition cheerleading team at Liberty. What is it like coaching cheer with middle school students?
“You don’t get to keep them long enough because they can only cheer in seventh and eighth grade, so it turns over quite often.
“Right now, I haven’t had a competition team the last two years because of COVID, but that’s allowed me to open my team up to anyone who maybe just wants to be a cheerleader who might not have had the opportunity before because they didn’t have the skillset to be on a competition team.
“We’re really being able to go back and focus on what the team initially started out as and what cheerleading started out as, which was school spirit, which is nice.
“I always think of that movie, ‘Legally Blonde’ when Elle Woods wakes up and she says, ‘I think I’ll go to Harvard today.’ Like sometimes I have girls who say, ‘I think I’ll be a cheerleader today.’ And they come out and I think, we’re going to work so hard, but by the end of the year, they end up being my captain because they found something they loved and that they worked really hard for. You can see that growth in them, and it's just awesome.”
What are some other things you like to do outside of the classroom?
“I like to hang out outside with my family. I have a husband who works in Forsyth County, and then my son goes to Forsyth Central. This is his sophomore year. And then on weekends, my daughter comes home from college, and she’s a junior at UGA.”