Monarch High Teacher Gives Students a Voice

Although Tammy Freeman is a language arts teacher at Monarch High School, her teaching style prompts many of her freshman students to ask her why she didn’t become an actress.

To keep learning fun, Freeman acts out vocabulary words for her students and invites them to join in. To teach them the word “brigand,” she might run up to them and pretend to be a robber.

“I never tell them what I’m about to do. I always surprise them,” Freeman says. “ … I’ll do a few, and I’ll have students come up; they’ll act the words out. It helps the students to realize they have a voice. They start to speak up for themselves.”

Giving students a voice is no doubt one of the reasons she was named the 2018 Broward County Public Schools Teacher of the Year at the Caliber Awards, winning a lease on a 2018 Toyota Camry and a $1,000 bonus. To Freeman, the award—and the more than 100 congratulatory messages she received from students—is an affirmation that she is inspiring students the way her teachers inspired her.

“I wasn’t raised by my mom or dad, and it was teachers throughout my life who made the impact—who made me start running track, who helped me to graduate, who got me a scholarship to the University of Albany, who really impacted and motivated me to be who I am today,” Freeman says.

Photo by David I Muir

Freeman also has her share of administrative duties as chair of the English department, professional learning communities facilitator, and coordinator of Monarch’s Personalization for Academic and Social Learning Program.

Freeman, who just finished her 11th year at Monarch, shared some class lessons with Coconut Creek Lifestyle.

Class Act: “With English, you can become someone else. When we’re reading literature, I become the characters. My students become the characters. We’re a family and we’re not afraid to have fun with each other. It’s a great experience. … Many of my students come from different cultures and backgrounds. When we read different pieces of literature, we’re able to make a connection, and I learn about my students even more. They’re also able to learn about me.”

TLC: “[Success] is not just about the curriculum. It’s about making sure that my students understand that I care about them. After the Florida Standards Assessments, a lot of students [said], ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re going to be so proud of me. I did so great. I did it for you.’ And I always say to them, ‘No, you did it for yourself. That’s what’s important.’ But they genuinely care about me, [and] try to do their best. We [teachers] must understand, if the students don’t like us, they will not learn from us.”

After Parkland: [Editor’s Note: Freeman was receiving the car from Superintendent Robert Runcie when the Parkland shooting occurred.] “At that moment, I forgot I even won. I forgot I received the car. I was just hoping and praying that the people at Douglas were all safe and OK. [The next day], every period was just students that were very emotional because we’re all connected and we’re only 6 miles from Douglas. We have a lot of students that were friends, even relatives, of the kids at Douglas. [I was] just trying to make them know that they’re safe. That was the biggest thing after it occurred. Could it happen here? Are we safe? [I was] trying to reassure them that I would never let anything happen to them.”

Beyond the Classroom: “I teach freshmen. To them, senior year, college … is so far off. I try to help them understand everything that you’ve completed—every assignment, every grade you get—is going to impact you not just for the next four years but for the rest of your life. … You want to make sure that you live this life to the fullest. Everything that you’ve ever desired—it happened on the first day of ninth grade. I really try to instill that in them. Life is a game of dominoes. Your first domino, it’s already been set down. Every next step you take will determine the path that your life will lead.”