Two Georgia girls recently left their roots to teach kindergarten in a brand new place — and a series of misadventures have brought them together as they prepare for their first year in Richmond County schools.
Tessie Womack and Kendall Sanders first met while in school at Georgia Southern University.
“We taught with each other in student teaching,” Sanders said as she sat at a desk in her new classroom on Friday at East Rockingham Elementary School. Beside her, Womack had taken a break from preparing her own classroom for the first day of school.
The recently-graduated 22-year-olds said they first heard about the job opportunity from another friend in Georgia.
“We actually have a Richmond County in Georgia,” Womack said, as she glanced over at Sanders and smiled. “(Our friend) thought she applied there, and it turned out to be here instead.”
The girls followed suit, and word began to spread quickly.
“Now there are seven of us in Richmond County,” Womack said, referring to five other Georgia Southern graduates that are now employed within the Richmond County Schools.
Womack and Sanders bought a house in Hamlet, but quickly realized the transition wouldn’t be as easy as they’d hoped.
“I left on a Thursday to come up here and got a (speeding) ticket,” said Sanders.
“She even cried and didn’t get out of it,” Womack added.
Sanders said before they were able to get a house in Richmond County, the two had been living in hotels.
“They cook breakfast and we don’t, so that worked out,” Womack said.
After they were able to move in to their new home, the girls continued to struggle with the transition.
“We ran into issues with our washer and dryer,” Sanders said, and for weeks the girls said they had no way to do laundry. Womack said that when the appliances were finally delivered, they weren’t the right size.
“Then my car broke down,” Womack said with a smile, as she shook her head. “We were going to Walmart one night and talking on the way. I noticed something was weird, but I didn’t want to say anything since we were going down a hill and coasting … but when we started to go up another hill, I realized we weren’t coasting. I told Kendall something was wrong.”
The car eventually came to a stop, leaving the girls stranded on the side of the road.
The two called their parents and nearly every friend they had around the area, but eventually had to have the car towed.
“I got the car back two days ago,” Womack said,” but now there’s another problem with it that wasn’t there before.”
“It’s like a comedy,” she said. “It’s the only way we’re getting through.”
In addition to their mechanical troubles, the girls claim to be living in a house with no furniture except two beds and a couch.
Their most creative invention? A “homemade T.V. stand” consisting of a giant Tupperware container flipped upside down.
“We’re still learning all the things that go along with having a house,” Womack said, while Sanders compared their situation to college life.
“We eat Ramen (noodles) every night,” Womack said. “Sometimes we make pasta, other times we turn it into soup.”
At the elementary school, the girls said they’d also experienced a few mishaps. During a new teacher’s orientation, both Womack and Sanders stayed late to work on their classrooms. When it came time to leave, Sanders said she dropped a few things off at the front office before exiting the building.
“About the time Tessie shut the door behind her, I realized I left my keys inside,” Sanders said.
“We tried to be optimistic,” said Womack. “We said ‘at least it’s a pretty evening’ — and then the sprinklers came on.” The girls laughed together as they described the experience of avoiding sprinklers and fleeing from a bee while attempting to guard their laminated school papers.
Despite the experiences they’ve had so far, both girls said they are very excited to begin their first year of teaching.
East Rockingham Principal Debbie Wrenn said many staff members have taken the girls under their wings and now call themselves the girls’ “North Carolina moms.”
“We’re still waiting for dinner,” Womack said, referring to a meal promised to the girls by their adoptive mothers.
“They have all been so helpful and sweet,” Sanders said.
On Friday afternoon, the staff of East Rockingham Elementary presented the girls with three laundry baskets full of household supplies, food and other gifts.
The two new teachers were given classrooms that sit diagonally toward one another — just in case they need a little extra help.
“I don’t think I’d be able to do it by myself,” Womack said.
“Our therapy is late night Taco Bell,” said Sanders.
Both girls said they have big plans for their first paycheck: pedicures, dinner, a movie and a shopping trip to Target.
After all of the hardships they’ve faced, Womack and Sanders said they feel well-equipped for the coming school year.
“We kind of feel like we can conquer the world at this point,” Womack said. “If anything else happens, we’re ready.”
When asked what teaching qualities she wanted to bring to the classroom, Womack said she wants to make an impact on all of her students.
“They’ll always have that one teacher,” she said. “You always want to be that teacher that people remember because they had so much fun … I’m all for an exciting and colorful environment, something to keep them engaged … I want to know they’ve enjoyed their first school experience … I’m all about being a positive influence to them that they may not have anywhere else.”
Sanders said it was important to her that her students look back and remember not only the fun they had, but also to realize the difference between the day they walk in and the day they walk out.
“I want them to know that if they’re in eighth grade and having problems, they can still come to me,” Sanders said.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.