Teachers aren’t just teachers, they are one of students’ biggest cheerleaders and source of support they can have throughout a school year. Valerie Maynard, a member of the English department at GCHS, is one of the many hardworking teachers on the school’s staff. Her students appreciate her positive attitude and recognize she does work very hard at building meaningful relationships with them.
While this is Maynard’s first year at GCHS, it is her third of teaching with Scott County Schools. Maynard’s passion for teaching started back in her high school years. “I’ve always loved reading, going to school, and learning. During my senior year, I started noticing that my friends were always coming to me for help on assignments, and I was leading a lot of study groups. I started to realize that I had a talent for teaching and guiding others, and that’s where my passion for teaching was born,” Maynard shared.
Maynard has loved reading and writing for a long time, and that influenced her decision to become an English teacher. “Reading and writing are powerful; they can help us connect to ourselves and the world around us. I love empowering students through the tools of English Language Arts.”
Her own English teacher in high school also helped steer Maynard down the path of becoming a teacher. “I was very connected to my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Story. She always inspired us to be the best that we could be. I specifically remember her reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss to us on the last day of school. She was very motivating and cared about us as individuals. I strive to be like her,” Maynard said.
Strong teacher/student relationships are one of the important components for learning, and Maynard has become known as a teacher that works to build them. She understands that many times a student’s bad day is the result of something that has happened outside of her class. Being aware of her student’s mental health is something she views as very important.
Maynard said, “I experienced a lot of trauma in my own high school years. I experienced the death of a childhood friend my sophomore year, and of my high school boyfriend during my junior year. I also grew up with a sibling with a mental disability and I have helped her navigate that for a long time. All of this helped motivate me to to work with teens, to advocate for them, and to see them as whole people who may be going through difficult things. I work hard to make sure that they feel seen, valued, and respected because they deserve it and because they may not have that anywhere else in their lives.”
Ms. Maynard loves to make an effort to reach out to her students to make sure her students are doing well on many levels. GCHS senior Hannah LeSak said “She’s more connected with the students, and always helps if one needs it. She always reaches out to make sure a student is okay if it’s school related or not. She never leaves a student behind even when they seem to have a lot to catch up on in her class.”
Stress is a part of life, and Maynard wants to help students learn to manage it. Goal setting is one strategy she uses to help students. Senior Hannah Butler had Ms. Maynard for her sophomore English teacher. “She is extremely understanding and always does her best to help students who are struggling in class. She is good at helping students set goals in order to achieve certain grades we want.”
At some point, everyone needs someone that is a good listener, and students have come to realize that Maynard can be that someone. LeSak said, “My favorite memories of her are talking to her about my stress and anxiety and how much she could relate to me, and she even told me how she got better and shared with me her steps and I tried to do what she did and it actually helped me a lot too. So it was nice having someone to relate to. Me and her also talked about one of my favorite books “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, and she happened to love it too, so I recommended that she watched the show.”
Maynard has a quote that she likes to think of when hard times set in, “Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” She said “I live by this. Having self-confidence and believing that you can do anything you put your mind to is a major key to a fulfilling and successful life.”