‘I Was Placed Here to Make a Difference’

How Math Teacher Emily Pawley is Handling Her First Year Teaching


Mrs. Pawley (right) next to her husband Jackson Pawley (left)

Maggie Phelps, Writer

Central Hardin alumna Emily Pawley returned to her alma mater in August to begin her career in education. Pawley said Central has always called her name even amongst the other schools she has observed.

“I always liked the people here, and I was always comfortable here,” Pawley said. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that, maybe I’m supposed to step out of my comfort zone but I wanted to come back to Central.” 

She noted how it was important for her to work in public education regardless of the school. 

“Some private and charter schools are good, and I get that and you have your niche,” she said, “but not everyone can afford that.”

She continued, “I think public education is so important and needs to be funded and all of that because every kid deserves equal opportunity and that really should be what public school is for, to kind of level the playing field.”

Pawley was an avid basketball player all four years of high school and even in years prior.  She reflects on how basketball is a deep passion of hers, and despite the fuel she has for the sport, she never saw herself pursuing at the college level or as a career.  She always knew that working in education is where she was destined to be. 

“I feel like people say teaching is like a backup plan, but no. It was always what I wanted to do.”

Pawley is navigating the logistics of being a first year teacher and dealing with the pressure that comes with the job.  She notes how she’s grateful that her first year has gone in comparison to other “first year horror stories.” 

“You’ve gone to school and now you’ve been taught but what they teach you in a classroom in college isn’t really going to prepare you for what’s going to happen when you have your own classroom and kids. You’re just kinda thrown into the fire a little bit.”

Even though Pawley has a love for math, she recognizes that not all kids will feel the same way about the subject as her.  She knows not all her students will go into math degrees, so instead she places her primary focus on the students themselves and values the relationships she has built with them. 

“If you don’t have that relationship with them, then they don’t feel like they can trust you or respect you. They’re not gonna want to work for you,” Pawley said. “Hopefully they want to do well for themselves but if anything, building that relationship helps them want to do well in your class.”

Pawley highlighted how she was nervous to step into education given the circumstances that the field has been under due to Covid, giving people the impression that students can learn on their own with no assistance from a teacher.  She mentioned how she went into this career knowing that she would be under-appreciated. 

“I wasn’t expecting to come in and get praised and get lots of money.  You have to come into it with that mindset, which stinks, because I still think we should advocate for that.”

 However, she keeps her spirits high by remembering why she works in education. 

“I just kept trying to remind myself that I’m here for the kids over everything,” she said. “I was placed here to make a difference in kids’ lives, so it helps me.”

Pawley values that relationship and connection that she makes with her students more than anything, which models the type of teacher she overall wants to be. She strives to make sure all of her students feel valued and appreciated, which she knows is something that not all students are receiving from their teachers. 

“Honestly, if you lined up every kid that I’ve had all year, I could go down the line and tell you all their names.”

She mentioned how she wants all of her students to know that she is always in their corner.

“I try to really know all my kids and for them to know that I care about all of them, not just these five people that I talk to all the time,” Pawley said.  “There are quiet ones who maybe we don’t interact all the time, but I still try to be intentional with them.”

Pawley is actively trying to change and impact the lives of students as someone that is responsible for teaching the next generation, hoping that having her as their teacher is a positive experience for them.  

“I love when a kid walks in and maybe I don’t even have them anymore and they’re like ‘Hey Mrs. Pawley, how’re you doing?’ or like catch me up on their lives and ask me what’s going on, like knowing that I made that difference is the biggest thing.”

She is also able to inspire those who are wanting to pursue a career in education.

 “You have to go into it with a heart for education and wanting to help students.”

She highlighted what she hopes to accomplish as a teacher. 

“Hopefully some of my kids learned math but when they walk out of here, really I hope they know that I care about them and want them to be successful.”