It’s safe to say that we have all experienced at least one inspirational teacher who helped us to understand their subject more and taught us to become a better person. The best teachers pass on this burning enthusiasm to their students, inspiring them to view the subject through refreshed lenses and to see things from a different perspective. Some inspired students have even gone on to become teachers, which is the case for Emanuel County Institute’s sixth grade mathematics teacher, Katie Cowart.
Cowart’s future was set in motion immediately following her graduation from Tattnall County High-School. She began taking classes at Georgia Southern University and while a student there, she met the love of her life, Garfield native, Zach Cowart. After obtaining her degree in Middle Grades Education in 2019, she kicked off her teaching career at South Tattnall Middle School as a mathematics teacher on the sixth-grade team. In 2020, she and Zach were married and after dedicating one year of her time at STMS and “loving every second of it”, the newlyweds decided to move back to his hometown of Twin City. After moving to Twin City, she found a new place to call home and began teaching at her husband’s alma mater, Emanuel County Institute, where she remains the sole sixth grade math teacher for the entire school. In 2022, Cowart added another title to her list of experience and obtained her Masters degree in Instructional Technology from Georgia Southern University.
Although Cowart has only been inspiring young minds at ECI for a short period of time now, her devotion to her students expands the wisdom that a hundred years can create. Maybe this is a reflection of the influence that first left an impression on her when she was just a student herself.
“To give only one teacher credit for leaving a lasting impression on me would be remiss.” Cowart explained, “I was so fortunate to have teachers every year that invested in my education and in me personally.” However, she added that a few stand out among the crowd, “My seventh grade ELA teacher, Ms. Stacy Schlock spoke encouragement into every aspect of my life and showed me the importance of building relationships with all your students - those who desperately need a caring adult in their lives and those who already have supportive adults. From her, I learned that there are never too many ‘cheerleaders’ for a student.”
One cheerleader being her most significant inspiration, her mother, who is also a teacher. Cowart explained that while having the privilege of being one of her own mothers’ students allowed her to experience the opportunity to see every angle of being an educator from an early age. From witnessing her mother work tirelessly at home to prepare for class, deliver engaging lessons during the school day, and watching her give her all to her three children at home, she realized very early on that teaching isn’t for the weak, especially when it’s done right.
“She carried the weight of being an educator with such grace, compassion, and with a work ethic that was unmatched. Any of the good that I bring to this profession is because of her.” She said with a smile.
As Cowart grew up spending much of her life in a classroom and playing “teacher” at home with her younger brother, she always felt compelled to become an educator. However, it took a while before she finally accepted it as her calling.
“As I got older, I was interested in a variety of careers and even declared a few different ones while in college.” She explained, “Ultimately, I decided to switch my major to Middle Grades Education because I was familiar with the teaching world, and I fell in love once I began my placements where I visited schools. The educators that I was placed with on my journey to finishing my degree further solidified my choice.”
As Cowart embarks on her fourth year of teaching, she shared that she’s thankful to be a part of the Bulldog family and even though she’s a native of Reidsville, she now can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“When I was first hired at Emanuel County Institute, I knew very few people. That quickly changed as I was welcomed with open arms and treated as if I was family, which I am to one of the long-time employees, Sondra Cowart who is my mother-in-law.” She said before concluding, “Now, that I’m here, a part of the Bulldog family, I can’t picture myself anywhere else. The staff at ECI are compassionate, hard-working, and driven to be their best for the students.”
When she isn’t making an impression within her classroom, Cowart enjoys cooking, baking, and trying new recipes. She also enjoys going to sporting events whether its cheering on her Bulldogs, the local rec department games, or professional games. More than anything else, though, she enjoys spending time with her family and pets but especially her newest addition, her daughter Annie, who she and Zach welcomed into the world just last summer.
Now that you’ve met the teacher and read her story, read her Q/A’s below to further understand Katie Cowart’s incredible values of teaching and how she’s changing and inspiring young lives in our community.
What have you found most rewarding in your career?
Cowart: The relationships have truly been the most rewarding. When you work so closely with people every day, you can’t help but to become such a large part of each other’s lives. My sixth-grade team, especially, is so special to me. They truly are my family along with my other coworkers. The relationships I have built with students are also one of the rewarding parts of my career. Only those who have been in the classroom can share in the knowledge of just how special it is to build a classroom family each year with your students. Teaching goes far beyond educating students on the math standards. It is the best feeling when a student comes through the classroom door excited to share something that happened in their life, and I get to support and celebrate with them. I am so thankful that these relationships don’t end when students are off my current rosters.
Do you feel that each of your students have left a lasting impression on you?
Cowart: Every single student has made an impact on my life, career, or both. I have learned so much from my students in regard to teaching strategies - what works and what doesn’t, but I have learned even more about compassion, grace, patience - qualities that I hope make me a better teacher, mother, and person in general.
What advice would you like to give to new or upcoming educators?
Cowart: Nothing can truly prepare you for becoming a teacher. Educators wear so many hats: teacher, counselor, mentor, coach, and sometimes even a parent–like figure. It isn’t easy, but it is oh so worth it to be such an integral part of each child’s life.
If you could tell your past students or future students one thing that you hope will stick with them all throughout life, what would that be?
Cowart: Work ethic goes a long way - much further than ability. When considering work ethic, however, you must also consider who you are working for. Colossians 3:23, my favorite verse, says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.” No matter what task is in front of you, give it your best effort and keep your eyes on the Lord.
What’s a favorite memory or some of your favorite memories that you have from your time as an educator?
Cowart: As I mentioned before, relationships with the students play a huge role in my career. Some of the best memories come from jokes that students crack during class, or celebrations for each other's accomplishments. My most favorite memory was when students completed an escape room with review questions to study for an upcoming test. Though they were solving math problems, they eventually found out that part of the escape room code revealed a secret about their teacher. I expected some excitement when I “announced” my pregnancy through this escape room after seven months of building a family within my classroom. What I didn’t expect were the elated reactions and continuous support from those who I always refer to as “my kids” about my baby.
The Teacher Spotlight Column is a monthly sponsored promotion by Durden Banking Company. The goal of these columns is to recognize and honor the many dedicated and hardworking teachers within our community. We thank our Educators for their unyielding support!
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