Sometimes the career finds you: Rowlett HS teacher of the year

Rowlett High School career and technology teacher Tanika Haggan was named this year’s campus teacher of the year. The Rowlett native attended Mississippi State on a volleyball scholarship with aspirations to go into marketing/advertising but fell into education and has been with Garland ISD and RHS ever since. She’s also part of the first full four-year graduating class of RHS.

How long have you been with Rowlett HS?

This was my first position and job so I've been here almost 14 years.

Was it your intention to teach high school kids?

I think I can deal with high school kids a little bit better than the babies. I can relate to them better and shape them better; they're almost adults so it's easier to talk to them.

How'd you get your start with RHS?

I started out as the head volleyball coach and I did that for a long time. I loved it but things change in your career; I had kids and I was giving a lot to other people's kids and decided I need to spend more time with my family so I decided to teach and did that for two to three years then got the role to take on department head for career tech, so I've been doing that for the last couple of years.

What was your reaction to being named campus teacher of the year?

It was very humbling. I'm not the type of person who looks for accolades when I do my job, I just do my job, but it's very humbling and I'm very grateful. 

This is my home, I went to high school here, too, so anything I do here doesn't seem like work, it's just part of what I do and giving back.

What drew you to the field of education?

Honestly, I never thought I was going to be a teacher; I was a business major and I have a business degree. I've always wanted to teach and coach so when I finished school I got a call from one of my old coaches who said, "Hey, have you ever thought about teaching high school? We have business classes." Coming out of school with no job I thought okay, I'll try it. 

My intent was to do this for about five years and then go back into the business field because I love marketing and that's what I wanted to do, but I loved it, I fell in love with the kids and seeing them grow up. It's amazing to see them come in as freshmen and leave as seniors; they're like a whole other person. 

If you weren't teaching, what do you think you'd be doing?

I hope I'd be working in advertising. I wanted to make commercials and print layout design, that kind of thing; I'm assuming I would've found a job in that role.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the flexibility; I like that it's different, it's not a sit-at-your-desk job, there's nothing that's the same every day. There's a new challenge every day, whether it's the workload or the kids, or a problem they have. When you teach four classes a day and have over 200 kids, it's something different every day.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

My family, my kids are growing up so fast and I don't think I realized it when I first started, time was going by really slow and now it's speeding up so fast. I think family is very important right now with everything that's going on in the world. 

Even at school, the family feel is important here; the kids that don't have good family or even the staff, we all lean on each other as family. 

What's your plan for summer?

Besides chasing my children around with all of their athletic events, we'll be working on some different parts of the PTech program and our early collegiate stuff that we need for the school next year. So lots of summer training.

What do you think has changed since you were a student here?

I think it's like everything else in the world; the clientele has changed, the way we do things has changed. I took notes and it was all paper, pencil and overhead, and now these kids are getting Chrome books and tablets, so technology is definitely pushing and driving how we teach and how education is formed, but our tradition is still here. 

Who was your favorite teacher growing up?

My fifth grade teacher at Herfurth Elementary, Ms. Ackles. I don't remember exactly what it was but fifth grade was probably the turning point in school for me when I really enjoyed school. She taught us a lot about being independent, and I remember we had a class election and I ran for that and got to be president. She just taught us so many things that empowered us to be who you are. 

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

The things kids say.

How would you like to be remembered by your students?

I definitely want them to remember that I cared about them. They always tease me and tell me I'm very motherly, that I treat them like my own kids and that's really what I want them to remember. It's not just about the teaching; we go to their events, we do all of that outside of our own family. I just want them to know that I care, we (here) care, and we want them to do something in life that's better than what they're doing right now.

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