An Exclusive Interview with Tia Stubbs

Sophie Hoffmeier, Staff Writer

*Originally published on our beta site April 1, 2020.

Over the past several years, North Polk High School has seen amazing teachers come into the community and spread positivity through teaching the student body. Recently, North Polk has gained a few new faces in various departments around the building. Though they are fairly new to the building, they have already contributed so much to their students and fellow teachers alike. They’ve brought their experience and knowledge to North Polk, which has greatly impacted the people around them, as well as improved learning experiences for many.

The English department has gained a few new members over the past couple of years. Earlier in March, I was able to interview one of these fantastic new teachers, and learn more about her as a person and as a teacher.

Tia Stubbs, a resident of Bondurant, has recently joined the North Polk family, and has been teaching here for two out of her six total years of teaching experience. She taught English 9 her first year at North Polk, and now teaches a few classes in the English department at both the middle school and the high school, and coached speech for the 2019-2020 season.

Stubbs has had prior teaching experience before coming to North Polk. She first started off teaching at Mississippi State University.

“I taught at Mississippi State, I taught in their English department, and their English Language Learning department,” Stubbs said. “I was also a tutor there in their writing center.”

After Mississippi State, Stubbs taught at DMACC for a short period of time, still focusing in the field of English.

“I taught Comp I and Comp II at DMACC,” she said. “I still do sometimes, if my schedule allows it.”

Stubbs, having six years of experience, prepared herself well during college before deciding that being a teacher was what she was going to do.

“My undergraduate I earned from the University of Northern Iowa,” Stubbs said. “And then my master’s degree, I earned that at Mississippi State University.”

It wasn’t until after earning her undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa that Stubbs made the decision to become a teacher.

“I did not decide until I had earned my undergraduate degree from UNI,” she said. “I graduated from UNI thinking that I wanted to work at a university, like recruiting students to go to college, and encouraging them to go to college. After some reflection and soul searching, I was like, ‘Why don’t I help them be successful at college?’”

Stubbs went on to earn her master’s in English, which made her become fully set on becoming a teacher.

“When I went back to graduate school to get my master’s in English, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I had majored in communications at UNI with journalism and marketing as my minors,” Stubbs added. “I just felt like, ‘communication is so important’, and I still feel like that, and ‘the ability to be an effective communicator’, those are important skills to have to be successful at college and beyond.”

Stubbs briefly spoke about working with journalism as she explored her communications major.

“If I weren’t a teacher, I’d probably be an editor, or a journalist,” she said. “I worked as a journalist for a little while when I was exploring my communications major. After a while, I decided it didn’t feel like the right fit for me.”

Stubbs taught for around four years, working at Mississippi State and DMACC, before coming to North Polk two years ago to teach English at the high school level, which was a new and very peculiar change for her.

“It’s been wonderful,” Stubbs said of her experience so far. “I had to transition from post-secondary down to high school, and so that was a little bit different. It’s a different environment, and there have been lots of teachers along the way who’ve helped me make that adjustment. From our instructional coach, Mrs. Yoakum, Mrs. Vernon, and Mrs. Dose, when I was teaching freshmen last year.”

Although the material was similar, the change from college level to high school level teaching was unfamiliar, but Stubbs handled it well.

“I had the background knowledge, but I didn’t know how to make everything really work then.”

The 2019-2020 school year is Stubbs’s second year at North Polk. She has gotten to know many new faces in her time, and enjoys her work.

“The people, the students, the other teachers,” Stubbs said about her favorite thing at North Polk. “It’s a very supportive environment, I found it to be very growth-minded. I’d be encouraged to try again if things didn’t go well, or to think about ways I could improve things, and how I could become a better teacher.”

Through this growth-minded and positive environment, Stubbs has many influences that have helped her become the best teacher she could be.

“I would have to say Mrs. Yoakum and Mrs. Vernon. They are always encouraging me to be the best teacher that I can be, and encouraging me to rely on my strengths, and to just be who I am as a teacher.”

Stubbs elaborated on the environment at North Polk and how it has impacted her in her time here.

“There’s just this mentality that we are all continuing to grow,” Stubbs added. “I don’t feel a lot of pressure to be ‘the perfect teacher’. I feel like I’m being encouraged to improve my practice, rather than feeling overwhelmed.”

Like most teachers, Stubbs has something in mind that she looks forward to when teaching here at North Polk.

“Reading great writing,” she said. “I love it when I’m reading a piece of writing, and I just think ‘Yes! Amazing!’ My students are amazing. I really love it when I get to see the wisdom they have. I just really enjoy reading good writing.”

Along with something to look forward to, Stubbs also mentioned what her ideal day would be teaching.

“Ideally, all of the lesson plans would go according to what I anticipated, or if they were somewhat pre-made.” Stubbs said. “If there were no printer jams,” she added, “that would probably be my ideal day.”

Teachers often go through changes based on what they learn for themselves and what they relay and teach to others. Since becoming a teacher, Stubbs says she has changed and has been influenced in many ways.

“[Becoming a teacher has] made me more open minded, and it’s made me willing to look at various sides of an issue with the desire to understand, rather than judge,” she said.

Stubbs says that her favorite class to teach is Comp II, because of the detailed research it takes, and the accomplishments that come as a product of the research.

“I really enjoy the research process that we take the students through,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work for them, it’s a lot of work for me, but by the end, [the students] have accomplished something that many many of them didn’t think they could actually do. I learn so much because of the research that they do. It’s something that they’re interested in learning about, so I’m let into these worlds that I know nothing about, so I’m able to learn alongside them, and I just love that.”

Stubbs recalled one of her favorite experiences here at North Polk, which took place during Comp II last year.

“One of my favorite experiences last year was during Comp II. We were working on a project that was pretty intense, and one of my students was really struggling,” Stubbs recalled. “They had this really big idea, but they were struggling to get it onto paper. So, we came in to Mrs. Dose’s room, and just started filling up the whiteboard with this idea. We started connecting the ideas and piecing things together, and it was just amazing to see the thought process come to life.”

After talking about Comp II and the amazing experiences she’s had teaching it, Stubbs said that she found teaching English 9 to be the most difficult.

“Last year when I taught English 9, that was a bit difficult,” she said. “I hadn’t done it before; it was my first year. I had taught Comp I and Comp II at Mississippi State and at DMACC, so I kind of had some knowledge on where that was going to go. But with English 9, especially while we were doing ‘Romeo and Juliet’, that was a challenge for me to figure out, ‘How do I communicate? How do I teach this thing that I think is amazing?’ when I hadn’t done it before.”

Having gone through extensive work and searching for herself, Stubbs gave an encouraging piece of advice to aspiring teachers.

“Surround yourself with good people, and trust yourself. Look for the bright spots. There’s always bad days, but look for the bright spots.”