There are many great teachers, but it is hard to imagine that any city of our size could be as fortunate to have so many of them in one place than we have in Gardendale.
April Thomas is yet another example of everything we should celebrate about our local teachers. She had a life-long love of sports and loved kids, so becoming a physical education teacher and coach at Bragg Middle School fit like a glove.
I’m not sure how April makes it to all the events she attends. She is a champion of Bragg students even if she isn’t coaching the sport they are playing. She cares. They don’t teach that is college, that is something that great teachers just have.
April has it and we are fortunate to have her in Gardendale.
Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
April Thomas: I have been married to my best friend Corey for 23 years and have three amazing boys. I love Alabama Football and sports of every kind. I lettered in every female sport at Warrior High School so I naturally gravitated toward a profession where I can combine my passion for sports and my love of kids.
I graduated from UAB with my B.S. in Physical Education and accepted my first teaching job at Bragg 17 years ago. I am also an avid reader and actually have my M.Ed in Library Media Specialist.
Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
April Thomas: Seeing the moment when “it clicks” for a kid. It is an amazing moment getting to teach a kid a skill that will benefit them in sports and throughout their lives. True learning to me is not just knowing how to do things, but why you do things.
Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself, “this is why I teach?”
April Thomas: I was blessed with a very strong mother and big sister in my life who were huge role models for me growing up. Middle School is HARD!!! I just want every girl I teach to know that they have a strong lady who will always stand in their corner with them.
I have several of my former students and players who are now teaching and coaching. I love when they come up to me and say, “I wanted to do this because you make it so fun.” It’s a “passing of the torch” kind of moment.
Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced while having to teach through the pandemic?
April Thomas: Seeing seasons cut short for these kids was rough. Quarantines, playing in masks, daily temperature check-offs and not having key players healthy and ready to play was definitely a challenge. I hope I still made it as fun and competitive as possible for my athletes while following the rules for safety for all involved.
Treye Hanner: In addition to being a teacher, you also coach several sports. Tell us about the sports you coach and how being a coach has helped shape you as a teacher?
April Thomas: I have coached multiple sports in my 17 years, and I have loved each one. I coached softball for 13 years only to pass it off so that I could coach and watch my own boys play soccer. That brought me into the sport of soccer where I have coached for two years now.
I also picked up my absolute favorite sport, volleyball, three years ago along with bowling. Throw in about 5 years of cross country and 6th grade newcombe/track and one year of basketball and that sums up a lot of coaching experience.
Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
April Thomas: We love your kid! We grow attached to them and we love to see them excel in the classroom or in sports just as much as the parents. I spend more time with some of these kids than I do with my own.
We all have the same goal as the parents which is to help make your child a success and to guide them into being who God wants them to be. Work with your teachers/coaches. We are all in this together!