Amy Admire Nolan

High School English Teacher and English Department Head, Commerce ISD in Commerce, TX

Bachelor of Science in Education in Secondary Education - English; Bachelor of Science in Theatre

Please describe your position and what you enjoy most about it.

My main job is teaching sophomore English and Creative Writing, but I wear a lot of other hats as well. As the head of the English department, I mentor the other English teachers, serve on a leadership committee, and lead the new campus literacy initiative. I am also the CHS Innovation Coach (assisting high school teachers with technology or new strategies in their classrooms) and the assistant director for the CHS theatre department (helping the theatre director direct and produce two productions and various theatre activities). It’s a very cliche sentiment, but I enjoy helping students and staff be successful in their endeavors and passions, and I love that every day is different and full of funny and/or heartwarming moments (which certainly cancel out the less enjoyable moments)!

What aspects of your HLGU experience helped prepare you for your career?

My education professors and instructors helped me approach my job with professionalism, preparedness, and passion. The program as a whole showed me that educating students is important, but so is building relationships and experiences with them. My theatre classes even prepared me for teaching; my training in improvisation and live theatre helped me stay calm and assured when I had to be flexible at the last minute or handle unexpected situations in the classroom.

What have you enjoyed most about your career?

I have enjoyed all the opportunities for development I’ve encountered through the students, faculty, and presenters I’ve come in contact with over the years. Looking back at how I approached teaching in my first few years, it is clear that the people that have surrounded me for the last eight years have made me better, both personally and professionally, and I am forever thankful for that growth. My teaching has changed completely, and I feel much more effective and satisfied in my career because of it.

How did HLGU shape you as a person?

HLGU really opened my eyes to new perspectives and possibilities. So many college friends were an inspiration to me, as were much of the faculty. I gained a lot of confidence in myself and abilities, and I was encouraged to think bigger and dream more deeply. My Christian faith grew so much during that time as well–I never truly understood worship and service until I came to HLGU, and those principles have stayed with me long after graduation. There is still so much the Lord has left to do in my life, but my renewed relationship with Him in college has held me through so many mountaintops and valleys since then.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

At Commerce High School, they not only have a Teacher of the Year award (which is voted on by faculty and staff), but students get to vote for a teacher that impacted them to receive Freshman Teacher of the Year, Sophomore Teacher of the Year, etc. Last year, I was voted Junior Teacher of the Year, even though I teach primarily sophomores. It was very humbling to know that so many students felt me worthy of the award, even though it had been nearly a year since I had most of them in class.

What HLGU professors played a part in your success? How did your relationship with faculty help you succeed?

I had so many wonderful professors and instructors that poured so much knowledge, passion, and encouragement into me; it’s so hard to not choose all of them!

Mrs. Burt was both my advisor and my favorite English instructor–her kindness, love of literature, and faith in my abilities really shaped how I approach the instructing and nurturing facets of my job. Without her, I wouldn’t love British literature (especially Jane Austen) as much as I do, and I probably wouldn’t have graduated on time! Even though I will probably never be half the English teacher she was, I continually look up to her as both a graceful and intellectual role model.

I can’t talk about my favorite HLGU instructors and not talk about Sabrina Brookshire! She took me when I was an okay actress and rather unknowledgeable theatre geek, and she helped me realize my potential–both on and offstage–through my theatre classes, mainstage productions, and New Edition. The knowledge and skills I learned from her in the theatre department have been just as useful in my teaching career as some of my education classes (and those classes were useful, too)! She not only became my instructor, but she became my friend, and she is the reason for many of my favorite college memories and cherished friends.

Do you have any tips to share with students interested in this field?

  1. Make sure you have a passion or knack for working with hard-to-love people; this career is full of people (students and staff) who will need extra consideration or care.
  2. Find the best balance between being overly strict and being too relaxed. Teaching is less stressful and more fulfilling once you learn which hills you absolutely must die on and which hills you can afford to graciously surrender.
  3. Remember the happy or humorous moments that happen in your classes. Those moments will keep you going on the hard and frustrating days.
  4. 9 times out of 10, you can never be too organized or prepared. If you aren’t good at organization or preparedness, research ways to improve those things. Your sanity and your sleep depend on it.
  5. While it’s difficult, do everything in your power to carve out time every day for your relationships, your housework, and yourself. All three are imperative for your well-being and can cause major problems if neglected. Letting your teaching career consume your life is one of the biggest causes of teacher burnout. Balance your work life and home life–even mentally and emotionally–to combat that fatigue before you burn yourself out of the field altogether.

What are some of your favorite HLGU memories?

A large majority of my favorite HLGU memories came from the theatre department–I loved my time on New Edition and in every theatre production I participated in. We theatre kids became a family and spent much of our time in and out of class or rehearsal together. I grew so much as a person and a theatre participant in that time.

I also enjoyed all of my literature classes for my English degree, especially the ones with Mrs. Burt and Dr. McNutt. We always had such lively and intellectual discussions about the texts we were reading, and it gave me an even deeper appreciation for literature than I already had. Those classes inspire me to someday teach an English class that is just as enlightening and enjoyable.

What on-campus activities were you involved in at HLGU?

I was in New Edition for three years and Concert Choir for three and a half years. I also participated in Alpha Tau Beta and Cru for a year or so.

HLGU’s motto is “knowledge for service.” What roles have these values played in your life?

I was helpful enough growing up, but I learned a deeper sense of selflessness at HLGU and the value of being a missionary, even in the smallest of ways and in the most normal, everyday circumstances.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started in the field?

I desperately needed to understand the importance of balance; there is so much juggling involved in teaching, and I spent the first several years dropping more balls than I care to admit [insert gritted teeth emoji]! It’s gotten better with age and experience, but I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and stress if I’d learned earlier how to give equal attention to all parts of my life.

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