Tara Mason, SCPS Teacher of the Year 2012-2013

 Tara Mason

Tara Mason
English Teacher
Central High School

Shenandoah County Public Schools'
Teacher of the Year 2012-13


Tara Mason, English teacher at Central High School, has been chosen as Teacher of the Year 2012-2013 for Shenandoah County Public Schools.  On an annual basis, each Shenandoah County Public School chooses a Teacher of the Year for their school.  From these ten school level Teachers of the Year, administrators at the School Board Office select a division Teacher of the Year.  Tara Mason's selection for the division honor was announced at a banquet held on May 2, 2013, at Shrinemont in Orkney Springs, Virginia.

Mason holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia and a Masters in High School Curriculum and Instruction from Eastern Mennonite University.  She has taught school for twelve years.  Her entire teaching career has been spent as an English teacher at Central High School.  

Melissa Hensley, Principal at Central High School describes Tara as a "student advocate" and "a hero to many students."  In the nomination form, Hensley wrote,
"She will single handedly make sure that every student walks across the stage in four years with a diploma in their hand.  We have seen her breakdown into tears of joy when a student 'finally' passes the English 11 SOL to qualify for their diploma.  Mrs. Mason loves what she does and it shows." 

Hensley included quotations from  Mason's colleagues and Central students in the nomination form as well:

"She is the heart and soul of the English Department and has a positive impact on the entire building" commented another CHS teacher.  

A student said,  "Mrs. Mason takes us under her wing and doesn't let us get away with things but hold us accountable and has high expectations of us."  Another student commented, "Mrs. Mason wills us to learn--you can't help but be successful."   And yet another student Hensley quoted confessed,  "I've been taught this stuff for years but never understood it until I had Mrs. Mason.  She makes me believe in myself."

On what was a  busy Friday, amidst tutoring students during lunch and covering a class for another teacher, Mason responded to an email interview:  
SCPS:  When did you decide to be a teacher?  Did you want to be a teacher when you were a little girl?  Did you play school?   Or, was it later?
TM:  I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. My mom is a teacher, so I grew up surrounded by the educational world. I fondly remember playing in my mom's classroom and frequently played "teacher" as a little girl. Late in high school, I began to seriously consider teaching as a profession. However, my parents discouraged me, as being an educator is not always easy. I changed my focus to physical therapy, and despite loving my English courses more, I trudged through science courses in my first years of college to fulfill pre-requisites for the Sports Medicine program. After my first two years at UVA, I was accepted into the Sports Medicine program, and so, that summer I did some volunteering in a physical therapist's office. It didn't take long to realize that I knew my heart wasn't in it. I promptly withdrew my from the Sports Medicine program. It was really hard to face my parents, but I think I always knew what I need to do. I shared with them that I was going to become a teacher and switched to an English major at the start of my junior year. It was too late to transfer into UVA's Curry School of Education, so I counseled with a professor in the education program and took all the classes I could without being an official Curry School student. As I worked through my English and education classes, my passion and happiness with what I was doing made it clear that I had chosen the right path.
SCPS:  Describe/talk about your feelings on receiving this honor.  
TM:  It is the upmost honor to be recognized as Shenandoah County's Teacher of the Year, and something that was completely unexpected.  I can think of so many teachers who are deserving of this title, so it is overwhelming and humbling to actually receive the honor. The kind words and comments from my colleagues, students, and Ms. Hensley definitely touched my heart. I always just give the best I can to my kids, so I don't really think of that as being something that qualifies me to be teacher of the year.
SCPS:  What do you like best about teaching?
TM:  Can I say just about everything? If I had to say just one thing, it would be my kids that I work with at Central High School; they are exceptional. Getting to know them not just as students but on more personal levels make me a better person and teacher. There is nothing better than those "light bulb" moments when students finally "get it" or when they feel proud of their accomplishments. I think that is what I enjoy the most about teaching. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to work with extraordinary colleagues. Without their support and guidance, I wouldn't be the teacher I am.
SCPS:  Tara, tell me anything else you'd like to say.
TM:  As I tell a lot people, I came to Shenandoah County on a whim. I had no idea where Shenandoah County was, but I met a really nice lady at UVA's Education Job Fair. I still do not know who she was. However, despite the fact that I was only qualified for a Provisional License at the time, she saw something in me and passed my resume on. Then, Mike McCormick took a big risk hiring me. For all of that, I will always be extremely grateful. My intent was to stay in Shenandoah County for a year or two, get some experience, and move on. However, my mentor became my husband and we established close friendships. There is just something special about our community and schools.
Tara Mason is married to Kenneth Mason, a Social Studies teacher at Central. They  have two daughters: Siena, who will start kindergarten at WWR in the fall, and Riley, who will turn one in June.

Congratulations to Tara Mason and to the other nine Teachers of the Year!