TOY: Carrie Rudder seemed destined to be in front of classroom

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 10:14 AM

Carrie Rudder always wanted to do what she's doing.

"I've wanted to teach since I was little," said Rudder, winner of Sevier County Secondary Teacher of the Year. "I used to make my brother and cousin play school with me, so I think I was set from a pretty young age."

Rudder received a bachelor's degree in history and a master's in secondary education, both from the University of Tennessee.

She now teaches Advanced Placement (AP) human geography and U.S. government at her alma mater, Pigeon Forge High School. A relatively new course, human geography, is a more culture-focused version of geography.

"It's more concerned with things like why people live where they live, why they migrate, why different cultures are here and there, rather than, can you find Africa or Europe on a map," Rudder explained. "It's really fun and interesting. I've really enjoyed it and the kids like it."

She's now in her fifth year teaching — all at PFHS — but Rudder said she changed her teaching style last summer in an attempt to make her classes more interesting.

"I incorporated more videos and technology, because kids seem to really enjoy things that are not worksheets and definitions from a book," she said. "I want to give them activities that are relevant to their life, too, like things they can do and see how government will affect them in life."

One of Rudder's favorite things about teaching is it's always different.

"I love that every day is different, and the kids are different every year," she said. "A new group of kids brings in a whole new set of ideas."

She enjoys the challenge that constant change brings. "It makes it fun and it makes me continue to learn from them and make it fun for them, too," she said.

Since human geography is a relatively new course and it's Rudder's first time teaching it, she's often learning along with her students.

"I'll ask them if they like it and how they're doing because I want to make sure I'm doing my job for them," she said.

It's important to Rudder to have a good rapport with her students. "To me, making sure that I remember they have a life outside the classroom and they are people too is important," she said.

Rudder has her students fill out a personal form at the beginning of the school year.

"I try to know at least one other thing about their life outside of school that I can ask them about," she said.

Rudder wants her classes to be enjoyable for students, but she also wants them to be respectful.

"I'm pretty big on respect. I think from the time when I was in school to now, the amount of respect kids have is a lot less, so when it comes to respecting teachers or their peers, that's one thing I think will get them far in life," Rudder said. "I'm not necessarily the first one to jump on them when they do something, but I definitely make a point of saying not to do it. And it's important to be respectful wherever you go in life."

Rudder also coaches the middle school cross country team, and leads the high school's Leo Club. A runner herself, Rudder participates in races and marathons, currently training for a half-marathon taking place in the next couple weeks.

"And I'm getting married, so right now that's my hobby," Rudder said.

Rudder and her fiancée Matt Bailey will tie the knot June 8.

rhargett@themountainpress.com