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WhyIChoseEducation: ‘I Believe the Classroom is Where The Difference is Made,’ Says Edgar Huff ’13MAT

When Edgar Huff was earning his Master of Arts in Teaching, he heard a statistic that almost half of teachers leave the profession after five years. He told himself he would not be one of them. Now, 10 years later, he is still teaching social studies at Panther Creek High School and was recently named the school’s teacher of the year.

“I love it,” said Huff. “That’s why I’m still here.”

At Panther Creek, Huff serves as chair of the social studies department and last year taught courses such as AP Psychology, African American Studies and Civics and Economics. From his days in the Young Marines youth organization to studying political science at Shaw University, it’s a field that has always interested him, and he’s grown to appreciate the way the field lends itself to a wide range of topics. 

For Huff, being named Panther Creek’s teacher of the year is a sign that his work as a social studies educator is making an impact. 

“It’s a big honor and something I don’t take lightly,” Huff said. “You represent the school; you represent the education.”

Not only does Huff work to make a positive impact on his students, but he also shares his experience with the student teachers from the NC State College of Education whom he welcomes into his classroom. Not only do they gain experience from working with him, but he appreciates the opportunity to learn from them, too. 

“Just having a student teacher makes you very reflective on your teaching practice,” Huff said. “And then I love the new ideas. That’s great, because I’m able to share them with the rest of the department to just keep our whole department fresh with the best teaching practices or the most recent pedagogical skills that are out there.”

The field of education may change, but Huff plans to be prepared for whatever comes next. 

“I don’t see myself going anywhere else,” Huff said. 

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Why I Chose Education:

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, I was in a youth organization called the Young Marines. The organization is really big on leadership development and, at 12 years old, I was given a task to teach a class on the 14 leadership traits to a group of about 40 kids who ranged from about 10 years old to 18 years old.

I studied the material and I gave the presentation. I loved it. From about that time, and growing up in my teen years, I would travel the country with the organization and I would teach classes. 

I always had in my mind, “All right, I’m going be a teacher.”

I believe the classroom is where the difference is made. For a lot of these teenagers, this is the last stop before they begin their adulthood. Anything that I can impart in them, I definitely want to be part of that. 

One of my big campaigns as an educator is living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. It can really make a difference in one’s life. I’ve been impacted by other people’s bad choices. And it’s changed my life. The classroom is a great place to spread that message and also to be a part of their lives as they get ready to go out into the world and be the leaders who are going to end up running the country one day.

Why I Stay in Education

I fell in love with the classroom — just being around the students, listening to what they have to say, giving them a voice and being an advocate for them. It’s so important because they don’t always have that. There have been opportunities to leave, but I just have this in the back of my mind: “If I go, then who else is going to stay? Who’s going to be the voice? Who’s going to be the advocate for the students?” I joke that one day I’ll be an old man and that that bell is gonna ring one last time to dismiss the school day. I don’t see myself going anywhere.

What I Enjoyed Most About the College of Education:

The class sizes, the flexibility that the program offered, it just really helped with all the things I had going on in my life at the time. I was able to get my degree and my teaching license while life was still happening. The whole flexibility of the program was a really big selling point. 

We just had some really good instructors there that had a lot of experience. A lot of the pedagogical know-how to really help us step into that pre-service experience that we had. It was good and lots of support from classmates and instructors. 

I came out of the College of Education feeling like a state-of-the-art teacher. One of the great things about having a student teacher is now he’s supposed to be the state-of-the-art teacher and I can stay fresh.

What Others Should Know About the College of Education: 

You can get your degree and you can get your teaching license while you’re still doing whatever you’re doing in your life right now. You don’t have to put your life on pause to go back to school, just because of the flexibility of the program. The class sizes were small. I feel like the instructors and professors were very personable. You’re able to have that intimate setting and really have the ear of the professor or the instructor. The NC State College of Education is one of the premiere teacher preparation programs in the country. I definitely recommend it to anybody. 

The Last Thing That Inspired Me:

My daughter’s a second grader and she had an assignment where she had to write about her hero. Sometimes life can just move, and you move with it. Sometimes you forget to stop and think about what you’re doing. So, she wrote about me being her hero and she gave some reasons why. And I literally thought about that and about being a teacher. Sometimes as a teacher, you just kind of go through the motions and in doing that, you can forget why you do what you do. And it really just made me remember why we do what we do. Taking the time to actually consciously do things with students, you’re building relationships. That’s one of the best things about being a teacher — the relationships that are made and getting to know the students and just being a small part of their life before they go off to college.