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Career-changer finds joy as ‘Irreplaceable Teacher’

teacher-600It's not how much you make, but how well you live that indicates happiness. That's according to Dale Mays, a 1st and 2nd grade teacher at Double Tree Elementary School.

Mays is categorized as "Irreplaceable" based on her student achievement scores and other measures under Memphis City Schools' Teacher Effectiveness Measurement. According to research, the "Irreplaceable" teaching status means it would take 11 teacher hires to obtain the same level of effectiveness of such a teacher if she or he had to be replaced.

Mays joined Memphis City Schools in 2003 when she moved to the Bluff City from Brooklyn, New York. While in Brooklyn, Mays opted for a major career change – from serving as a buyer and marketing analyst for Macy's Department Stores for 15 years to becoming a teacher in Brooklyn's public school system in 1990.

As a Macy's buyer, she was required to move from city to city, covering states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri. She enjoyed business life and corporate perks, such as business dinners in New York City and live theatre, but later found that the hustle and bustle of big business could not compete with the hugs and appreciation received from students. Initially earning degrees in psychology and business from Syracuse University, the now school teacher went back to school to earn master's degrees in both teaching and school administration.

Mays fully believes that her corporate experience has contributed to her success as a school teacher. She uses acquired business skills and creative techniques to get through to students.

"Since I love the arts, I use the arts in my teaching lessons," says Mays. "I may use singing or acting to teach a lesson, or I find other ways to have fun with the students, which helps them to learn."

Mays' love of plays and musicals prompted her to develop contacts at Theater Memphis, Hattiloo Theater and other local theaters. Those contacts help her to expose children and their parents to live theater. Many of her students had never seen a live performance prior to meeting the top teacher.

"We have 'Parent Night Out' with students and families which includes theatre, says Mays." The outings help parents have fun and become more involved in their child's education."

The highly effective Mays, who says the Teachers Effectiveness Initiative is a great way for every teacher to "get on the same page," first became familiar with Memphis by visiting relatives in the city. She says her main reason for moving here is simple – "Quality of life." That's the mantra she uses to explain her rationale.

"In Brooklyn, I lived in a studio apartment because that's what I could afford," states Mays. "In Memphis, I have a home with a garage and a remote control garage door opener. It's the quality of life that is so much better, and the students here are easier to reach."

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