On one wall of Natasha McFall’s Mt. Pleasant High School classroom, taking just three lines toward the top in alternating pink and blue colors, reads one simple yet immeasurably powerful message: “We Love You, We Believe In You, We Absolutely Know You Will Be Successful.”
Success, for Natasha, wasn’t what many would say was the typical type. It wasn’t the type that involves attending college right after high school that so many know and experience. Success, for Natasha, was balance and perseverance, grit and determination, struggle and reward.
Natasha was a single mother of three young children, Gabrielle, Jonas, and Luke, when she decided to make a career move. Having previously been a restaurant manager then dipping her toes into the education field as an assistant for Pre-K at Pulaski Elementary, she decided to take the leap and be the first in her family to expand her education to the college level and pursue an education licensure at Martin Methodist College (Now the University of Tennessee Southern).
“I started at Martin because I needed to go somewhere close by,” said Natasha. “My home was in Pulaski, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
As a non-traditional college student with no family nearby, Natasha had no choice but to bring her three children into class with her; however, while many places may balk at the idea of kids in the room, Martin didn’t so much as bat an eye when she stepped into class with her three children in tow because this wasn’t an unusual occurrence to the Martin professors. They believe every single person, no matter the situation, deserves a chance at a college education.
As Natasha progressed in her studies with support from her teachers and moved from night classes to day classes, she had to leave her job with Pulaski Elementary, and because of it, she took on a handful of varying part-time jobs to support her family while she worked toward her degree. Having been everything from a florist, personal trainer, assistant to an eye doctor, and a bartender, Natasha did it all, yet never once did her education slip behind her ever-moving path of life.
In 2013, Natasha graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English with Licensure; however, her diploma was more than just a sheet of paper that documented her degree in a few simple words. It was a physical example, a concrete achievement, of all that she conquered as a non-traditional college student. While her experience differed from many, she still received the same support and compassion that all Martin students receive when working toward their big graduation day.
“I loved and learned from my professors,” said Natasha. “I had a great experience at Martin.”
With her new degree in hand, Natasha took her diploma and jumped into her new career. After teaching at a couple of different schools, she found her new home with Mt. Pleasant High School as an English, Content Reading, and Journalism teacher in 2016.
In the short time that she’s been there, she’s taken on many leadership roles including student council advisor, assistant women’s basketball coach for one year, and yearbook advisor, yet while the activities keep her plenty busy, she still excels within the classroom.
Her classroom atmosphere is comfortable, with many signs of encouragement decorating the walls and bulletin boards, and she has an exercise bike that she allows students to alternate using during class. She teaches her students the importance of fitness and literacy, and she explains to them that success and failure go hand-in-hand, that both are necessary. She’s taken note to be a reflective teacher from her student teaching days during her time at Martin, assessing what classroom activities work and don’t work in an effective manner, and she exhibits calm yet controlled classroom management, showing that while she is the teacher, she is also a friend and supporter to these growing minds who look up to her.
“I try really hard to make my students feel like they can do anything,” said Natasha.
Her success within the close-knit Mt. Pleasant High School did not go unnoticed by her peers for she was nominated as the Teacher of the Year for the 2017-2018 academic year, and while she was praised as a successful educator within the school, her community outreach also took her all the way to Teacher of the County.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Natasha. “I never dreamed that not even two years in and being, kind of, the odd man out because I’m not from Mt. Pleasant that I would receive these honors.”
Natasha’s journey to success was one filled with bumps and curves, twists and turns, yet she made it out on top. While there may have been times in her journey that she felt she wouldn’t succeed, she did, and now she reminds her students daily that they, too, can succeed no matter what with her one simple yet immeasurably powerful message: “We Love You, We Believe In You, We Absolutely Know You Will Be Successful.”