Amy Crawford retires: Leaves legacy

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors, West Knox County

Amy Crawford posted that she is retiring from teaching. A simple statement, but for the educators in our area, it was like a curtain closing on a magnificent final act.

Amy Crawford has carried the torch for educators across the region for years by leading the fall Reach Them to Teach Them event she spearheaded since 2006. The three goals: to appreciate, to inspire and to challenge area educators.

Amy was destined for the education field having been born into generations of educators. Her grandmother, Martha King, taught at Giffen Elementary; her grandfather, Ebb King, was the principal at Bearden High School; and her father, Tom King, taught school early in his career.

Amy said when she started first grade at Cedar Bluff Primary School, the world was her oyster, because the night before her first day of school, her dad wrote a note to her that she later found in her baby book: “When you wake tomorrow, your world will change.”

She attended Knox County Schools from first grade through graduation at Farragut High School. Upon graduation, she attended Carson-Newman College and majored in the family business, elementary education. She credits her grandfather’s inspiration for her becoming a teacher as she wanted to be for other people’s children what he was for her.

Amy says, “He taught me a love of learning through books and poetry, but most of all, he taught me to love people, especially the most broken and vulnerable, so that’s what I set out to do. Looking back now, after 30 years in the classroom, I hope I’ve left each of my students with something of value, and I hope they know that I loved them.”

Amy shares one of the many stories that impacted her drive to reach so many students through impacting the educators.

When she was teaching at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy, she had a fourth grader who was severely neglected. The Department of Human Services decided to place him in foster care. The morning after the police had to forcibly remove him from the only home he’d ever known, this child came to school visibly and understandably upset. Consoling him the best she could, they went about the day.

A few days later, some UT football players came for field day. As the kids passed the football and got their field day shirts, one of the football players, who was wearing a black T-shirt with a big orange Power T, asked her student if he’d like to have his shirt signed by him.

Much to Amy’s surprise, the student said, “Sure, but I’d like to sign yours!”

Amy said, “I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down my face, when the UT player handed him the Sharpie, patted his chest, and said, ‘Absolutely! You sign my shirt right here!’ indicating the Big Orange Power T. What that football player did for my student that day was give him the validation he longed for deep in his soul. It’s moments like this you get to bear witness to in the classroom. There are times when a classroom is more holy than the altar of a church.”

Listening to Amy lead the fall Reach Them to Teach Them events and the speakers she brought in to inspire the attendees, she took that inspiration to heart.

How did she start such a dynamic event that would impact thousands of educators over the years?

She had just returned to teaching after her last maternity leave, and was teaching eighth grade at West Valley Middle School. Since she had previously taught third grade at A.L. Lotts Elementary School, she had some of the same students she had as third graders.

Her former students were excited that she would be their teacher for the second time but it didn’t take long before it was clear to her that something was wrong in our education system. The more she worked with them, the more she realized her students were going through the motions. As third graders, the students were curious and enthusiastic, but as eighth graders, they were apathetic and lethargic. School was no longer an exciting place to be.

As an educator, Amy felt she had to own some of the responsibility for this change and she asked her colleagues if they had seen the same thing in their students. She asked them if they were willing to do something about it.

Amy’s words:

“I would be remiss here if I didn’t share that this was more than a compulsion. This was a feeling deep in heart that to ignore it would be to ignore God at work in me. I HAD to act. I was not responsible for the results, but I had to do something.

“So, I reached out to Guy Doud, the 1986 National Teacher of the Year, and asked if he would speak on the day before students returned to the classroom that fall.

“Graciously, Mr. Doud said that he would love to speak in Knoxville, and he charged $3,500 plus travel expenses, so I booked him to speak to teachers. I failed to mention that I did not have $3,500 or a venue, or sponsors, or any kind of experience planning an event of any kind. In fact, even our children’s birthday parties were at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza! But I HAD to do this, whatever it was, and do it to the best of my ability and trust that God would come through.

“I pulled together a team of people who shared my dream of inspiring educators to remember why they chose teaching and to remember the power of their influence in the lives of their students, and we went to work putting together our first Reach Them to Teach Them event.

“There was only one huge problem we didn’t have any money, and I had already hired Guy Doud to speak. Our team began to pray and we asked others to pray for us. One day as I checked my mailbox at school, I found a white envelope with my name written on the outside. There was no stamp, no return address. Inside that envelope was a cashier’s check for $3,000 along with a note. About a week later, a teacher at West Valley stepped out of his classroom and handed me five $100 bills an inheritance given to him by his mother who had recently passed away.”

So began Reach Them to Teach Them and more generational influence.

Her father said to Amy when she started school, “When you wake tomorrow, your world will change.” I say to her as she retires from school,  “Amy, you have changed the world.”

Amy is married to her biggest supporter, Tom, and together with their four children Chelcie, Drew, Addie and Sam they are creating future generations.

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