As the school bell makes its monotonous dong signaling the end of the day, anxious students rise from desks, sling book bags over their shoulders, and begin their way to the door. By the door stands the students’ teacher: a petite woman, with fair skin and striking blue eyes, bidding her students farewell and a promise to see them the following day.
Once the final straggling student exits the room, she moves towards her desk, her high-heeled shoes clicking on the smooth, white tiled floor. Her room is filled with the smell of textbooks and faintest trace of an old wall plug-in. She sits at her desk, where all items are arranged just so, and ensures all her tasks for the day are completed before leaving the school to take on her second job as a mother and wife. This teacher, whose impact on students extends fair beyond the classroom, is Amy Moore Mize.
Mize is a teacher whose passion for the subject is prevalent in every lesson she teaches. She is a kind individual who cares deeply for the success of her students, both in the classroom and beyond. Her hope is that students will walk away from her class more confident in their reading and writing abilities, appreciating the importance of literature, and that they were pushed to think more in depth about topics.
After graduating with a Masters degree in education from the University of Georgia, Mize began teaching at Oconee County High School; she is in her 17th year of teaching. Mize currently teaches the AP Literature and Honors British Literature students. Mize describes her teaching style as student-centered, focusing on the students and their needs. Her students learn in a hands-on environment, with lectures and in-class activities broken up over 90-minute class periods.
“I believe students learn best by doing. So I give them as many chances as I can to read, write, and speak. I use the work I see from my students to judge what we do next and how quickly we move to the next topic or go back and review”, says Mize.
Mize’s conversational lecture style gives her the opportunity to get to know her students on a personal level. Her quick-wit and sarcastic sense of humor allows her to joke and laugh along with her students, while also encouraging them to be the best they can be. Austin Williams, a former student of Mize, recalls that she “gets to know her students first as a person, then as a student.” She even partakes with her class in pranks on unsuspecting students who enter her room, promising the perpetrator that she will not reveal their identity. She is fascinated by her students and hopes they see the sincerity of her interest in their lives. Her want to assist and guide her students stems long before earning her college degrees; rather this skill was developed early in her childhood.
Mize is the oldest of four children: she has two sisters and one brother. She laughs saying that being the oldest child typically sets you up for a career in teaching because she was constantly watching over her siblings. Her father retired from the Air Force when she was four years old and the family settled in Warner Robins, Georgia. It was during her childhood that Mize discovered her love for reading and writing. She jokes that the many nights she spent reading Alice in Wonderland under her covers with a flashlight is what ruined her eyesight.
“In 6th grade my mom got so sick of me begging her for new books that one day she brought home Gone with the Wind, all 1100 pages of it. She handed it to me and said, ‘There! Do not ask for another book until you finish this one!’”, Mize says with a laugh.
As a teenager, she became involved with her high school theatre department. The training she had for performing taught her how to be comfortable in front of people and create energy in the room; these are skills she continues to use on a daily basis.
Because of her experience in theatre, Mize has the ability to keep her students constantly engaged and entertained. Williams describes her as “relatable and approachable, making students feel comfortable asking her for help.” The success of her teaching methods are proven by the honors she has received. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2005; she had only been teaching for seven years at this point.
Along with being named OCHS’s Teacher of the Year, Mize has continued to receive accolades throughout her career. She is currently the OCHS STAR teacher, an award given by a senior student with the highest SAT score in a single sitting. This is the award that she is most honored to receive; she has won this award four times. Louise Zhuang, the current STAR Student, selected her because Mize’s passion for literature and writing has sparked her own interest in the subject. Likewise, 2013 STAR Student Jared Munnike believes Mize has an uncanny ability to improve student’s writing at any level.
“I had a negative view of my own writing. Even if I wrote something that was decently good, I would look at it and tear it to pieces and decide that it wasn’t right or it didn’t sound natural. And Ms. Mize, whether it was through her grading or teaching, reinforced that even I could become a great writer”, says Munnike.
As time goes on, the school bell will continue to toll and students will graduate, moving on from the halls of OCHS. However, if they had the opportunity to have Amy Moore Mize as a teacher, the lessons they learned will transcend far beyond the classroom. Mize’s passion for literature and her constant encouragement inspires students to push the boundaries of their writing and challenges them to become better students. Laura Anne Savage, a current student, says that Mize’s optimistic outlook on life and constant encouragement inspires her to work hard both in and outside of the classroom, reassuring her that she can accomplish even the most intimidating of tasks. In the future, Mize is working on her own fictional novel and hopes to publish it; this dream was put on hold when she became a mother. But one thing is certain; Mize will continue to teach and students will walk out of her classroom better than they were before.
“Teenagers have their whole lives in front of them, with so many doors that are still open to them. Helping them find a path that suits them and will lead to their happiness is a great joy for me” says Mize.
By Abigail Harrison