Texarkana Independent school District and Texarkana College – August 2022
When Holly Mooneyham graduated from Arkansas High School in 2006, she knew what she wanted to do with her life: she wanted to be a teacher. “My mom jokes about how I would play school when I was little, but high school is what really solidified my career choice. After watching my three older siblings drop out of high school, I knew I wanted to help students. Out of 10 siblings, only three of us graduated high school, and I’d like to think I was instrumental in my two younger siblings graduating,” Holly says. “School was a refuge for me. I knew the influence of a great teacher and wanted to be that for my students.”
While getting her degree, Holly worked at Pinson Park Preschool with the Pre-K4 students, and while she thought her little students were “adorable,” she knew she wanted intellectual conversations with older students. Holly was hired directly out of college by Texas High School in Texarkana Independent School District and has been there ever since. “They took a chance on a new teacher, and I hope they haven’t regretted it,” Holly says. “I’ve taught every grade level between 9-12th, and I’ve taught different levels including Pre-AP, remedial, on-level, and dual credit. I am also going into my 5th year as an adjunct professor at Texarkana College, where I teach online dual credit courses to area schools.”
Holly has had a few big accomplishments in the last 12 years as a teacher. One of those accomplishments occurred in her sixth year of teaching when she won Region 8 Teacher of the Year. “More recently, I became the Texas High School English Department Chair, which has allowed me to work closer with my teachers in my department and be an advocate for them in any way they need me,” Holly says.
For Holly, the most rewarding part of teaching is the relationships she builds with her students. Some of them become lifelong friends, while others she gets to observe through social media. Holly usually teaches students in 9th grade, but then she may teach them again in her 12th-grade dual credit classes. “It’s so fun to see their growth in those few years,” Holly says.
In Holly’s opinion, the most challenging part of education is the politics and constant educational changes. “These changes are a constant demand on our time and are usually time consuming and ineffective. It takes away from the actual teaching aspect of the classroom,” Holly says. “But, we adapt. That is the thing about teachers—we are amazing at adapting to change. We figure out the important things we need to do for the success of our students, and we make that happen. As long as we are constantly asking ourselves what is best for our students, then we can overcome any challenge thrown at us.”
In order to create better relationships with parents and students, Holly consistently communicates with them. She sends out constant emails to parents to let them know what is going on in the classroom, and parents are asked to join her Google Classroom, and her Remind 101. “I send emails of celebration as well as those of the struggling kind. I also attend extracurricular activities of my students to make sure they know they are being seen outside of the classroom because they are more than just their academics,” Holly says. “In the end, my parents and students know that I care about them as a person.”
When Holly is not at work, she spends time with her husband of almost 17 years, Junior Mooneyham, and their 4-year-old daughter, Macie Mooneyham. The couple finalized Macie’s adoption this year. “We were blessed with Macie through my little sister’s death, so biologically she’s my niece. However, we’ve had her since she was eight-months-old, and she is just as much our daughter as if we birthed her,” Holly says. “My husband has been supportive since day one of my educational career through crazy long nights of studying, the tears, the overwhelming work hours, and sometimes the drama. He has no idea how education works, but he listens, and that’s all I can ask for.”
When Holly thinks back on her last twelve years at Texas High School, she says that she will never forget the “success stories” of students who have grown in her class or accomplished their goals. “I have taught remedial classes where we focused on closing gaps and trying to pass the state tests. The students in the class are those who have struggled their whole life passing tests, so any time I had a student get a passing score, it was such a celebration for both of us,” Holly says. “Then, in the last several years as a senior English teacher, I celebrated with students on their choice of what to do with their life after graduation whether that is a college acceptance, signing with a military, a career field, trade school, etc.”
Though there are plenty of tough days as a high school educator, those days can easily be turned around with a kind word from a student. “A simple note that says, ‘I love you’ left on my podium or laptop, a hug from a previous student walking down the hall, a student who says ‘You are my favorite teacher,’ a lesson that engaged the students, the light bulb moments, and the ‘Thank you for teaching it so I understand it’ comments are all my motivations on the hardest days,” Holly says. “It’s truly those connections that make it worth it in the end. The students are truly the reason any teacher teaches.”