BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
A child who reads will be an adult who thinks. Reading is more than just glancing at words on a page. Reading is about being educated, being transformed, and changing the way people think. Those who read are also normally the ones that lead. Colby Singleton, literacy teacher at Acorn, is teaching students to think and helping them access a whole new world through reading.
Colby grew up in a world of education, her mom a school teacher and her dad a superintendent, so it is not hard to believe that she would be a teacher as well…except that wasn’t her plan. “Everyone in my family was in education, my grandparents, my parents, I never thought I would be a teacher. I went to college and wasn’t even studying to be a teacher,” explains Colby. After graduating from Hatfield Public Schools, Colby attended Arkansas Tech University to pursue a degree in Agri Business and Pre-Veterinarian. She didn’t seriously consider teaching until coming home for a summer, while she was helping with AWANA and teaching kids at church. “I asked my mom one day, ‘Do you think I could teach?’ She supported that and I went to school to meet with an education advisor. I wasn’t sure what I would teach and the advisor asked me what I enjoyed doing and I told her I loved to read. She said I should be a literacy teacher and the rest is history,” says Colby with a smile.
Currently Colby teaches for Ouachita School District at the Acorn Campus, but when her teaching journey began, she wasn’t sure if she would ever be in Polk County. While finishing at Arkansas Tech, she completed her student teaching at Western Yell County. Nearing the end of her student teaching she was approached about staying on to teach. Within a couple weeks of accepting the job, Colby married her husband Gary. “Just like that, within a couple of weeks I finished student teaching, received a job offer, and got married. It was a busy time,” Colby says laughing. At the time they lived in Russellville and Gary drove to work in Clarksville and Colby would drive to the school to teach.
After teaching for a year, Colby received an opportunity to move closer to home and she received an offer at DeQueen Public Schools. “I really enjoyed my time at DeQueen, some of my favorite students were there. In the school, there was such a diversity of so many people from so many backgrounds. One of the things I did while I was there was teach ESL [English as a Second Language] for four years, I learned a lot about diversity during that time and it really shaped me.”
Colby taught at DeQueen for five years before receiving the opportunity to teach at Mena Middle School. “I really loved teaching literacy to middle school students, they are still so wide eyed and have a desire to do well. If we can establish a love for reading in middle school students, it is something they will carry with them forever,” remarks Colby. While Colby was teaching at Mena, she felt God leading her into a new teaching adventure in high school literacy and there was an opportunity at Acorn. “I was enjoying what I was doing, but I felt that God had placed a new mission in front of me. It was difficult at first, but teaching high school has been so fun and such a rewarding time.”
C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.” Reading gives perspective. Sometimes this perspective is understanding what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone else as you read history, or it may give a lens by which to view the world. “I feel that my job as a literacy teacher is to make reading relevant. There will never be a time again in their lives that they don’t need to read and reading shows them the diversity that is around them.” Colby realizes that in a world of short attention spans, her job is to maximize the time she has with students and teach them to be better writers and readers. “So often students feel like reading or writing has nothing to do with their lives. I’ve explained to our students before that they may be in an accident one day and if they can’t write well then they can’t possibly give a good account to police. That is what I love, helping make a difference and showing students that this will affect the rest of their lives.
Like many adults, Colby had teachers growing up that greatly impacted her and her love for reading. “I can still see and remember Ms. Helen Long, my second grade teacher, and all the books she ever read to us. Teachers like her and others helped establish my love for reading.”
Reading and writing not only is necessary for so many things done in life, but they can provide an escape, a place to go and relax even if your location has never changed. “I have never once regretted becoming a literacy teacher, I have loved what I have done. If we can help students catch a passion for reading, it will never be something they regret.”