OPEN HOUSE: Meet Miranda Cipkowski, an English teacher at Tremont Attendance Center

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Miranda Cipkowski had a confession to make: She didn’t really want to be a teacher. At least, not at first.

“Most people I know knew they wanted to be teachers when they were little,” Cipkowski said.

That wasn’t the case with her. Teaching … for lack of a better word … was something she learned to love.

“It’s just kind of something that grew on me,” she said. “I wasted a lot of time in college, so I had to make a practical decision … I just picked something.”

Twenty-one years later, Cipkowski is still doing the “something” she picked. Now in her sixth year at Tremont Attendance Center, a K-12 school located in easternmost Itawamba County, the Fulton native current teaches seventh grade and senior English, theater and handles the school’s popular social media accounts.

“When you work at a small school, you wear a lot of different hats,” she said. “You do a lot of different things that people don’t even ask you to do … We all just pitch in.”

So, what turned Cipkowski’s hesitance about becoming an educator into passion? Turns out, when she actually began teaching, she discovered that she loved it.

“It’s a passion now; it’s a passion,” she said. “It’s the kids. When you see a kid ‘get it’ … when that light bulb goes off … that’s the key to it.”

Through years of trial and error, Cipkowski feels she has learned how to build relationships with the students she teaches.

The trick, she said: Don’t force it. Teaching is as much about guidance as it is instruction. Present students with information and let them reach their own conclusions.

“It’s more about having a conversation with them; telling them where to look, but not what to see,” she said.

Over the years, the idea of teaching as a process of opening young minds has become Cipkowski’s personal philosophy, her guiding principle. Especially when she took the job at Tremont.

“It’s so small, and the social circles are so overlapping,” she said of the school. “One of the challenges is to cultivate a curiosity for cultures when resources are limited.”

Cipkowski said she does that by sharing her personal experiences with her students. She tries to encourage the kids she teaches to embrace new experiences, to try new things.

“Don’t be fearful of new things,” she said. After all, that fear could cause them to miss out on something they might love.

Teaching, for instance.

Q&A

What was your favorite subject growing up?

“In elementary school, I liked spelling. As a child, I wanted things neat and orderly ( I still do). It made complete sense to me. Later, it was history and English.”

Did you have any favorite teachers? What made them special?

“I had so many. Each helped me in a different way, for whatever stage of development I was in at the time. Every teacher that stands out to me does so because they took the time to build a relationship. I knew in my heart they cared about me.”

How would you define your teaching style?

“Classroom management is all about consistency — procedures, and relationships. Students like to know what to expect … we all do. I think my classroom is organized chaos. It is also a place where everyone can feel safe to just be themselves.”

What’s one thing you wished your parents or students knew about you?

“I have enough coffee mugs to last a lifetime! Ha Ha!

No, seriously. I am so flawed, but I love my students, and I understand it’s a privilege. Parents trust me with their most precious ‘possessions.'”

What’s your favorite part of the job?

“Teachable moments; when the light bulb moment happens; and when a kid says, ‘I never thought of it like that!’”

Do you have a school/classroom motto?

“I don’t have to know everything, but we have to know we can figure it out.”

What are you looking forward to next year?

“A clean slate. Every year is a clean slate. I am always learning. We all are, hopefully.”