Local Schools

GES’s Bethnee Durham Builds a Classroom Family

Bethnee Durham knew at 6 years old she wanted to be a teacher. She has taught for 32 years, 27 years at Gardendale Elementary School, and continues to be a shining example of why we celebrate teachers! Bethnee teaches first grade at GES.

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

I actually decided to become a teacher when I was about 6 years old. I had the most wonderful Kindergarten teacher, and I knew right away that I wanted to grow up to be just like her! I went to a little private school in Bluff Park. That is where my love for learning began. My teacher’s name was Miss Dot. She had red hair and freckles and always had a big smile on her face. Miss Dot had a piano in her classroom. She played that piano daily and sang to us as well.  Everything about Miss Dot was magical. She brought lessons to life and she was consistently joyful!

I have had many other inspirational teachers as well. My great aunt taught on a reservation early on in her career. When my mother was a little girl, she would send her dolls that her students made and little books that they wrote. It was fascinating! My mother tells me that after my dad built a playhouse for my sister and me in our backyard, it immediately became a schoolhouse. All of the kids in our neighborhood would come over as soon as school was over to get more “schooling” from me. Those poor kids!  I have never considered any other career in my lifetime and feel so blessed to be able to do what I love!

What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

Teaching is never boring! Every day is different despite the routines we create in our classroom. Every class is different. Each school year is unique. Not only do I get the opportunity to inspire children, I get inspired as well. I get inspired by children’s creativity, enthusiasm, efforts, struggles (that they overcome), acts of kindness and compassion. Children are incredible little humans. I love listening to and observing them.

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

I know it may sound cliche’, but teachers make a difference. Good teachers make a big difference. Teachers have done that in my life! I vividly remember the teachers that influenced me and I want to be that person in the lives of children. We can make a difference by caring about children as people, seeing and responding to them as individuals and building a safe and respectful learning environment in our classrooms.

We begin each school year in my class by establishing a “Classroom Family”. The rules are very simple. They include: 1. We always TRY to do our best. 2. We use kind words. 3. We follow directions and remind others to do so as well. 4. We show respect when we work together. 5. We don’t hurt others on the inside or the outside. 6. We tell the truth, even when it is hard to do so.  7. We share our things and our smiles! 8. Above all…We take care of each other.

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

We teach because it is our passion. We love what we do and we love your children. We want to be difference makers and we truly want to see your child succeed. When a child doesn’t succeed, it hurts our very soul. It is our earnest desire for all children to feel loved, safe, needed and important in our classrooms.

If you had one wish for something special for your classroom, what would it be?

I have everything I need. I have precious little children and I could not ask for more!