Veteran English teacher Huffman reflects on her career at NSHS

After more than three decades at North Stanly High School, Kerri Huffman, who taught English and was the theater director, retired at the end of September. The Stanly News & Press recently connected with her to discuss her time at the school, what being a Comet has meant to her and what her plans are for the future.

1. How long have you been a teacher and specifically how long have you taught at North Stanly?

I spent my whole teaching career at North Stanly where my first year was 1984-1985. I taught there for 36 years.

2. What types of English courses did you teach?

I have primarily taught 11th and 12th English, and AP English. I also was the yearbook advisor for 25 years and the Cadet Teacher Instructor. When I came to North Stanly I started The Comet Players Theatre Program and directed that program for the 36 years I taught at North Stanly.

3. When did you officially retire?

I officially retired Sept. 30.

4. How tough of a decision was it to leave the classroom?

It was tough to leave North Stanly, my classroom and my programs, but right now teaching is changing in its structure and style to adapt to the demands of COVID. It is very different, (more) than anything I have ever experienced; I decided this was a good time to start spending more time with my family and grandchildren. Teaching has always been my passion, my calling, and I truly hope to continue teaching and working with young people in some capacity, but right now I am enjoying just having some fun and free time to be with my family.

5. What will you miss most about being a teacher?

Planting seeds and seeing what happens is the part of teaching I will miss the most. Students always amazed me and surprised me in so many wonderful ways. I will miss their excitement and the laughter we often shared! I will miss watching them become confident young adults in my classroom. I will miss sharing my many stories with students who so patiently allowed me to tell and connect with them.

6. What has your time at North Stanly meant to you? Do you have any meaningful memories you wouldn’t mind sharing?  

I have had the best job anyone could possibly have! I have so many wonderful memories — watching The Comet Players’ performances come together, seeing students complete graduation projects, helping talent show performances, watching my daughters perform on stage, hearing a student named Kellie Pickler belt out her first song for me, riding on the bus with students after play competitions, practicing faculty plays where we laugh so hard we can’t say the lines, celebrating the yearbook completions, sharing the joy with students when their future plans come together, watching cadet teachers teach their first lesson, hosting Lady Huffman’s medieval feast, teaching with former students who are now incredible educators, having visits from past students, representing Stanly County in 2013-2014 as Teacher of the Year, standing in the hallway with fellow staff members, and most of all seeing students learn to believe in themselves! So many joys! I also will never forget the students and faculty who passed away too young along the way. They were all such strong forces, and they remind me to cherish each moment that we have.

7. What have your students taught you during your time in the classroom?

Students are resilient and full of hope. That has not changed! Many of them face great challenges, challenges that as an adult I would have a hard time dealing with, yet most of them forge ahead. They just need someone to help guide them and believe in them! I always had one message for students — find joy in life, then share it with others! So many of my students have contacted me to share their joys and that means everything to me!

8. What are your plans for the future?

I plan to spend more time with my family, ride my horse, continue writing and telling stories and just enjoy some free time! I have one grandchild and another on the way so playing with them is high on my list! I am excited to see what new adventures await me!

It has been a true honor to teach in Stanly County for the past 36 years. I have worked with incredible educators and community members who have helped to shape my career and my life. I also truly have appreciated all the support through the years from parents and students!

I always told my drama students before our performances to “be loud, be good, be real — break a nose!” (our sign for good luck!). I wish that for all the faculty and students and for the future Comet Players! I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring for them!