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Rachel Wood

Path for 'Teacher of the Year' nominee began at Motlow College

by Shane Levan, Staff Writer

One of the many roles that a teacher serves to students is as a mentor. People often forget that all teachers were once students who needed their own mentors. Motlow College alumnus Rachel Wood has successfully made the transition from student to teacher, thanks in part to the role of mentor that multiple Motlow instructors played in her educational path.

Before becoming an honors English teacher in Sebring, Fla., Rachel was a student at Motlow College. Through the guidance of several teachers who successfully mentored her, Wood has achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.

Rachel Wood "From a relatively early age I wanted to be a teacher," said Wood. "I was recently nominated for 'Teacher of the Year' at my school and I have never been happier."

Wood's pathway from student to teacher did not come easily.

A graduate of Coffee County Central High School in 1994, Wood was more involved in school activities than many students her age. She participated in choir, wrote for the school newspaper, and served in ROTC. She became a mother at 16, and by her senior year was working a full-time job while raising a child and trying to earn her diploma. She was able to persevere due in part to the support from one of her teachers.

"I defied the odds even then," Wood continued. "Thanks to the encouragement of my high school English and journalism teacher Teresa Lockhart, I walked the graduation line with honors."

Wood did not immediately continue her educational pursuits by attending college. She got married in 1995, and by 1997 she gave birth to two more children. Although becoming a teacher seemed unattainable at times, she never gave up on her dream.

"I was working in a series of dead-end jobs when I knew I needed to do something different with my life," added Wood. "I knew I needed to complete my goal of becoming a teacher."

She enrolled at Motlow in the fall of 1997 and found new mentors in two of her teachers; Brenda Lewis and Stuart Bloodworth. She was close to finishing her degree at Motlow when circumstances, and a lifelong fear of math, interrupted.

"I ended up taking a ten-year hiatus from college to raise my family," she continued. "I worked full-time in retail management before I felt I was able and ready to go back to school."

In 2010 Wood re-enrolled at Motlow. With the help of her former mentor Lewis (now retired), who had just become the interim vice president of academic affairs, she completed her associate degree.

"Brenda found me a work study job within her office and I began the pathway to completing my degree," said Wood. "I had to quit working full-time to concentrate on my studies, and I was also a tutor for the office of disability services."

While Wood doubted herself as a non-traditional student in an environment primarily populated by younger, more traditional college-age students, she once again received encouragement from her teachers.

"Billy Hix, associate professor of education; Lewis; Dr. Scott Cook, assistant vice-president for academic affairs; and Dr. Mary McLemore, English professor; changed all of that doubt for me," added Wood. Once again it was teachers who stepped in and became mentors, encouraging Wood to overcome her fears and complete her dream.

She graduated from Motlow in December 2010, and then enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University. Once again though, life took her in an unanticipated direction as circumstances dictated her family move to central Florida. After a year of settling in the area, Wood enrolled at Hodges University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013.

Wood credits much of her success to Motlow College and the teachers who served as mentors and inspired her along the way.

"If not for my education at Motlow, I would not have been prepared for my course load at Hodges," added Wood. "If it were not for the encouragement and the family I found through Motlow College, I do not believe I would be where I am today, and for that I am forever thankful."

Wood's legacy will continue as her two sons are planning to enroll and will attend Motlow beginning in the fall of 2015.