By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
BYHALIA – Elizabeth Towle had no intentions of becoming a teacher when she arrived at Harvard University as a freshman in 2006.
Six and a half years later, the Swanzey, N.H., native is wrapping up her second year teaching at Byhalia Middle School and preparing for a third.
“When I got to Harvard, I didn’t think teaching was a prestigious enough career,” said Towle, who graduated from the university in 2010 with a social studies degree – a selective program in which students create their own course. She also traveled to India as a Fulbright Scholar.
Her plans began to change during her freshman year as she taught American government lessons to middle school students in Cambridge and Boston once a week, as part of a program she joined to share her interest in politics.
“I quickly found out, it wasn’t about teaching about democracy,” she said. “I just liked teaching and working with kids.”
After she completed her Fulbright studies, a friend from Harvard received information about the Mississippi Teacher Corps program in an email and sent it to Towle.
Towle was impressed by the program’s size – it seemed small and intimate – and by how much its manager seemed to care about the state and its schools. She applied and was accepted.
The program, which placed her at Byhalia Middle, requires a two-year commitment. She will stay longer.
“What kept me here a third year, and I’m not sure how long I’ll stay, is I absolutely love my students,” said Towle, who teaches eighth-grade reading. “There is not another way to describe it. I love my job, and I have not bee absent once in my two years of teaching.
“I adore them. I am impressed by how hard they work considering the obstacles they face.”