Formerly a full-time teacher, Jennifer Eddins decided the time was right to slow down and spend more time with her family.
Q: You have spent most of your career teaching, but this was initially a job you avoided, correct?
A: Both of my parents ended up in education, but this was not something they had really planned, either. I was born in Cullowhee. My dad was there (Western Carolina) pursuing his master’s and my mom was a nurse. My dad played baseball at Western and did receive his master’s degree in physical education but got out of that for a while and worked in business.
My mom ended up getting into teaching, and she taught for 35 years. She started the Allied Health Science program in Gaston County (where the family eventually settled). At the time, it was called Career Technical Education and the courses were taken by high school students who were interested in working in the medical field. My dad eventually left business and returned to teaching. Actually, I did not want to be a teacher. I loved to read and write, and I knew that was my skill. I wanted to major in journalism or communications, but my high school counselor talked me out of that, saying it was for ‘dumb blondes.’ He told me to major in English.
While in college (at N.C. State), I realized I would probably have to be a teacher. But in the second semester of my junior year, I visited a high school and observed a teacher. I saw how hard the teacher was working and how disrespectful the students were to her. It was horrible. I said to myself, ‘Heck no, this isn’t for me.’ So I did not student teach, and when I graduated, I went to work in the business world. Then I had Harrison (oldest daughter) and realized a teaching schedule would allow me more time with her. I began teaching and was lateral entry.
Q: At what school did you first teach?
A: At my (high school) rival school, East Gaston. I taught later at East Wake High and East Wake Academy.
Q: And weren’t you quite the tennis star in high school?
A: My tennis partner and I did play for the state championship in doubles. We made it to the finals but did not win it. My high school (North Gaston High in Dallas) has always been a very athletically competitive school. My husband kids me that we are always playing for the state championship in something. While I was in high school, we won state championships in basketball, baseball and track. I went on to coach tennis at both East Gaston and East Wake High. While I was at East Gaston, the women’s tennis team won the conference championship so I was proud of that.
Q: What about your daughters? Are they tennis pros?
A: Harrison is the dancer, Candace is the musician and Gracie is more of the home body.
Q: You recently stepped away from teaching. What led to that decision?
A: It was just time to take a step back and evaluate. My oldest daughter is preparing to go off to college, and it made me realize how quickly time is going by. The expectations of being a full-time teacher can be so overwhelming, especially if you have a family. I just wanted to be more available to my family. That was also one of the reasons (her husband) Jeff decided to not run again for town council after 14 years. We both wanted to slow down and refocus on what is important. I now work about three days a week.
I still teach, because I sub for Wake County schools. Gary McConkey talked to me about helping him with PEG Media (programming for the towns of Knightdale, Garner and Clayton). He needed someone who understands education and all the jargon, so I write scripts and interview and spend time in the schools working on education stories. My goal is to show how hard teachers work. I really don’t think most people realize the time and effort that goes into teaching, and it gives me a chance to highlight eastern Wake County and all the great things going on here.
Correspondent Dena Coward