Teachers have had lasting effects on everyone’s lives. Whether it was an elementary school teacher who sparked a lifelong love of science, reading, or mathematics; A college professor who helped you land your dream job or a trustee who spent the time to ensure you weren’t left behind, teachers have amazing access into students’ lives.
For some teachers, this access extends into all aspects of their lives—even in their own families. The $253 couple recently spoke with The Gazette, sharing their experiences working and raising kids in Emporia Public Schools.
Carol and Terry Taylor: A Family Affair
Carol and Terry Taylor are products of Emporia Public Schools. Their children too – and the couple wouldn’t change a thing.
“We said this to anyone who would listen, [our children] They were ready for life after high school from Emporia High School,” Terry said.
“If you want to get a quality education Emporia High School is here to get it.”
The Taylors are now teachers at Emporia High School, and they both work in the counseling department. A former counselor who works with children in psychiatric hospitals, Carol works with higher-risk students at the College of Health and Safety as a reading interventionist while Terry becomes a school counselor after moving on from an industrial arts and technology education.
But years ago, they were simply uninformed high school students wandering the halls of the high school.
“We graduated here in 1983 at the same time, so we’re in the same class,” Terry said. “She moved here when I was a junior in high school, so she didn’t really know me when I went here at Emporia High. She was pretty well established. Everyone knew her, nobody knew me.”
Until the Taylor family reunited nearly a decade later, marriage wasn’t on their minds.
According to Terry, before he met Carol, he had no intention of marrying, while Carol had no intention of staying in Emporia.
She explains that her decision to return to Emporia was temporary. She planned to go home and help her parents with their treatment for a year, before eventually leaving again.
“One of my friends was a life skills teacher here in the special education department,” Carol said. She called and said “I could really use some help, while helping your parents, can you be a bar in class too?” So I came here for a year with the intention of just being with them and helping them through their treatments and things and leaving.
“[Terry] She was studying here and I came back and I was working here at the time,” Carol explained. “He was working in the classroom I was working in and we kind of reconnected…and I’m still here. Ruin my plans.”
“Ten years later, for some reason, I was more attracted to her,” said Terry, laughing.
Today, the couple has been happily married for 26 years and said that their marriage has been beneficial to their careers as educators.
“I think the kids here who know us as husband and wife, I think they love it,” Carol said. “If he’s their advisor and he pisses them off, they might come up and say ‘Mr. Taylor really upset me today. I don’t always defend him but I try to help them see his point.’”
For Carol and Terry, part of what defines their teaching methods also comes from their individual experiences.
“I feel like I’m using my mentorship as much as I’m using my education,” Carol said. “You see a lot of the same behaviors, maybe not extreme, but certainly some of the same attitudes.”
At EHS, Carol runs a program called Spartan Explorers, which helps probationary students by providing them with tutoring and other activities. It also helps them gain financial assistance to cover court costs.
“For me, this is the most powerful way to reach children,” she added.
For Terry, training is what makes the difference.
“I think I did my best teaching when I was a coach. And I think I did my best advice when I was a teacher,” Terry said. “You counsel these kids nowadays every day, so the better background you have in that area, whatever Kant, the greater your influence on the children.”
Terry has been a football and basketball coach for 30 years, and now helps out wherever he can.
“I really think I may have had as much influence as a coach as I did as a teacher or counselor,” he said.
The couple also grew up as teachers with their children – they both graduated from EHS like their parents.
“I always say that when you become a parent, you become a better teacher,” said Carol.
“And the coach,” added Terry.
While they share a workplace, Taylor said it’s not uncommon to not see each other until they get home for the day. Finding a balance between their work life and their home life comes easily to them.
“We try not to talk too much about school at home,” Carol said. “I also feel, in his role, that secrecy is a big thing. We really try to avoid that in order to respect each other’s roles and respect our students as well.”
Terry added, “We are always busy with our children and have other interests besides education and work.”
In their personal lives, the Taylors share many of the same interests — spending time watching sports, riding motorcycles, visiting a lake — and, of course, visiting their children.
“Our kids are adults now, and it’s so exciting to experience life with them as adults now,” Carol said.
But no matter where their interests may take them, Carol and Terry feel a sense of belonging right where they first met.
“It’s home,” said Carol. “this is our house.”
Michelle and Randy Wells: Finding Passion
Michelle and Randy Wells have been educators in Emporia Public Schools for more than three decades. But for college sweethearts, the drive to be better and more passionate about what you do never diminishes.
The Wells met at Bethany College in Lindesburg, through mutual friends. Both educational majors, they share a passion for teaching and influencing children’s lives—albeit in different ways. When they came to Emporia in 1990, the couple found their respective passions through teaching.
Michelle earned her degree in Elementary Education and eventually found her niche while working with children in a special education program. She now works as a Transitions educator for young people ages 18-21.
She said, “I love children.” “…I love these kids. When they have a smile on their face and see success and are so happy about the degree they got in technical college, it’s all worth it.”
Randy earned his degree in physical education and worked his way up to his current position at Emporia High School as the head of the physical education department, head track coach, assistant football coach, and weight coach.
For Wells, teaching has been a lifelong passion.
“I always felt from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher,” Michelle said. “…I’ve always taught swimming lessons and things like that, so I always knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Michelle said the only thing that changed for her was the switch to private education after her first few years at Emporia.
“I just remember at a young age, working with other kids on reading and things like that,” she said. “I think the aspect of helping them get something done is probably what drew me to it. Just being able to help them figure out a way to make it work.”
For Randy, the decision to become an educator was driven by the people in his life.
“I had some really good role models. Besides my dad, I’ve had some good teachers and coaches along the way. Well, maybe I can do that and be as good as she was to me to someone else,” Randy said. “That’s why teachers get into education.” Because they have someone along the way who is paving the way for them.”
For him, training and education go hand in hand; You cannot have one thing without the others.
“Coaching is teaching, and teaching is directing. If you are in charge and can hire a good coach, they will make a good teacher,” said Randy.
The Wells family also raised a child in the Emporia Public Schools, and maintained a love of training and teaching others in the family. Their son, an EHS graduate, is now a personal trainer at Lawrence and is married to the head of physical education at Lawrence Free State.
Michelle laughed, “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”
For Wills, being a married teacher comes with its perks, but it also puts a strain on their son.
“I think the couple definitely affects your kids,” said Randy. “There is scrutiny, and there is no margin for error for these children.”
“But we also have very high expectations for them as parents,” Michelle added. “Because we know, we know the endings and the consequences. He couldn’t make us any excuses because we all heard it.”
However, their relationship with their son also helped them connect more with their students.
“I try to educate like these are my kids,” said Randy. “Expectations are high, structures are high, everything is high.”
He added, “When you’re raising a child and you actually have to teach that child in class, you realize that there are other external influences on things.” “You understand the pressures kids are under. You understand the other home lives of other kids, and you hear all this stuff. I think it helps open your eyes to everything that’s going on in a child’s life.”
While the couple’s specialties don’t leave much room for overlap, they still believe their professions complement each other.
“I think for us, as a couple, you understand, because you both go through the same things in education. What happens in our building affects both of us and we can discuss it and have conversations about it and understand it better,” Michelle said.
“We can talk about … if she’s having problems with something or a problem, we can kind of work it out and get a different perspective,” said Randi.
Michelle added, “If a student happens to be in class and isn’t quite sure what to do…they can always ask me and I can make suggestions.”
Being able to learn from each other is not where the motivation to be good teachers stops. In all aspects of their lives, Wells is constantly working to be the best they can be.
“Now I’m good at what I’m doing,” said Randy. “There’s still more to learn and that’s what keeps me going. It’s a few other things out there, can I find something else that’s better, and that keeps me on the course. I think it’s a lifelong learning situation.”
“He’s a very competitive person,” Michelle added. “If he thinks there is something else, he will learn it.”
Michelle’s path opens up new opportunities, as she prepares to retire and find a new passion at the end of the year.
“It was time for me to change and find something different to do,” she said. “…I work hard and I can do anything. I can just do anything I want.”
However, one of the constants in the couple’s life is their family.
“We have grandchildren, so if we get a chance, we go see them,” Randy said.
“Family is important to both of us,” Michelle added. We spend as much time as possible with our families.