Local Schools

Gardendale Teacher Spotlight – Cara Thomas

The Gardendale News continues our celebration of Gardendale’s teachers.

Imagine going to college for 4 years and competing for a job in your chosen profession. You get it and then learn that you will not have all the resources you need to do the things you think are important.

You then actually choose to spend some of your own money to get some of those things because you know how important they are, and through it all you must deal with the politics of the job itself.

Then to top it all off, you are underpaid.

That job is called “teacher.”

Why do teachers stay in the job with all these obstacles facing them?

Simple, they care about kids.

It matters to them that our children learn and grow and have an opportunity to be great in whatever they choose to do in life. All the obstacles of the job pale in comparison to the kids and the fact that they are making a difference in their lives.

Teachers are vitally important.

The Gardendale News Teacher Spotlight Series was born to celebrate teachers.

It would be difficult to find a more dedicated teacher to her students and one more energetic and passionate about teaching them than Cara Thomas. Cara is the choir teacher at Gardendale High School.

Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?

Cara Thomas: I am the choral director at Gardendale High School, and I’ve been teaching music in some capacity since my high school career. My grandparents really instilled a love of music in me, and I have always wanted to share that with others.

Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

Cara Thomas: My favorite part of being a choir teacher is when I see a student really enjoy a piece of music we are singing, or they unlock something new within their voice.

Singing in a choir is different than playing in the band in that we get to portray a story with our poems and words. When a student resonates with the words, and they remember the song years after we sang it, that is the most rewarding part.

Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself, “this is why I teach?”

Cara Thomas: I always think “this is why I teach” when my students feel successful while sight singing or singing the songs we sing in class. Students get the immediate reward of sounding amazing and I can always see it in their eyes when they feel like they have achieved something.

Another reason is when I see past students who have gone into the music education field, and they let me know it was because of my class.

I will always be grateful for the meaningful time we spend in class together, and when they like it so much they want to experience it with their own students.

Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced while having to teach through the pandemic?

Cara Thomas: When the schools went virtual, it was almost impossible to teach choir class online. Students lacked the internet needed to stream a live video, or some didn’t even have computers.

Every choir program in the country had to find a way to keep singing in some way. It was difficult, but I realized the importance of music and how powerful it is for all students.

Just listening to music helps students refocus and if it’s music they enjoy, students will listen all day.

Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?

Cara Thomas: One thing I want people to know about teachers is that we love what we do, and it is very rewarding, but it is one of the toughest jobs ever.

Most teachers will take work home every day to make sure their students have the best experience they can have, and they don’t get paid for that extra time.

If you’ve never been in the education field, I guess I would say to ask a teacher how it’s really going and to be there for them through this difficult time.