Bob Jones High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama or FTA hosted the statewide conference at the University of Alabama. Reagan Burgess, in photo, served as FTA State President and coordinated the event. CONTRIBUTED

Patriots host conference of future teachers in Tuscaloosa

MADISON – For the annual Future Teachers of Alabama Statewide Conference, Bob Jones High School’ chapter hosted more than 1,200 future educators on the University of Alabama campus on Feb. 20.

Delegates from 105 Alabama chapters heard speakers about the education profession and visited college representatives.

Reagan Burgess from Bob Jones served as FTA State President, an office won in 2023. “It was such an honor to be voted as president of this organization by my peers,” she said.

With support of Alabama Educators Alliance this year, Burgess planned and ran the entire conference – orchestrating regular board meetings; selecting breakout presenters; designing promotional materials, including the T-shirt; emceeing; and delivering multiple speeches. “It was definitely an exciting experience,” Burgess said.

Reagan Burgess, Karolyn Bodden and Annie Gehring were selected to represent Bob Jones’ chapter. “We intentionally formed a small group to ensure our capacity to fulfill the responsibilities of hosting the conference,” FTA Advisor Meagan Fleenor said. In Bob Jones Teaching Academy, Fleenor teaches “Education and Training,” “Teaching I,” “Teaching II,” “Teaching Internship” and “Mental Health and Counseling.”

Numerous breakout sessions delved into educators’ pressing issues. These sessions included “Integrating Media Into Lessons: PBS for the Classroom,” “Mathematics Literacy Through Social Justice,” “Supporting Deaf Students for Success,” “Gandhi – King Scholarly Exchange Fellows,” “Teaching in the Digital Age” and “Multiple Perspectives in Mathematics.”

Keynote speaker Elizabeth Huntley inspired students about education’s power to transform a child’s life, and every student has a story behind their eyes.

“Reagan Burgess delivered a profoundly moving and inspiring welcome speech,” Fleenor said.

“In your 25-plus-year journey as an educator, you’ll have the privilege to guide anywhere from 500 to 5,000-plus students. Each student is more than just a number –they’re individuals. They need to feel seen, valued and safe in your classroom,” Burgess said in her speech.

“When you empower a single student to go beyond what they thought was possible, you’re not just changing their life — you’re changing the trajectory of countless other individuals . . . that doctor who saves lives, young politician inspiring change, future parents who will raise compassionate children,” Burgess said.

“Teaching might not be the most lucrative career, but how can you begin to put a price on the legacy you leave?” Burgess said. “Payment may come in a small child’s hug, a middle-schooler telling you that you’re the coolest person or in lightbulb moments when their eyes tell you they understood a difficult concept.”

“Let’s make a lasting difference, one life at a time,” Burgess said. “When you see the ripple effect of your teaching, know it all began with that one student.”

Fleenor was immensely pleased with the conference and her students’ perseverance. “My students . . . stepped outside of their comfort zones to inspire such a large audience. Their dedication and hard work were evident not only (at) the conference but also throughout the year.”

“These students were encouraging our future generation of leaders and teachers. Let us remember that the heart of education lies in human connection,” Fleenor said.

Burgess acknowledged that prospective teachers will encounter challenges or stereotypes, perhaps intimidating. “However, among the demanding workload and potential financial considerations, it’s important to recognize the opportunities for professional growth and financial advancement within the teaching profession,” Burgess said.

An educator has multiple avenues for career advancement and income growth, Burgess said. “Teaching offers a fulfilling path filled with countless opportunities to thrive. The joy of witnessing students’ growth and success . . . is truly unparalleled.”

“Teaching isn’t simply a job; it’s a calling, driven by passion and dedication,” Burgess said. “By embracing both the challenges and rewards, educators find themselves on a fulfilling journey of inspiring and shaping the future generation.”

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