Carlene Ragusa did not foresee herself becoming a teacher. Her memories of education, molded by less-than-ideal experiences and teachers who did not seem happy in their daily work, caused her to dismiss teaching as a possible career. Then one day during her undergraduate degree, she had an epiphany.


“It just clicked; I realized that as a teacher I could not only be in a position to support my students and help them build a voice for themselves, but… I could be the teacher I wish I had growing up… Even if only one student can look back and have a positive response to their time spent in a high school English class, I would be honored.”


(See Carlene’s and others' reading recommendations for high school age students here.)


Now an American & British Literature teacher at Hewitt-Trussville High School, Carlene is centered on providing the experience she didn’t have and being a light for her students. Her teaching philosophy encompasses this allegiance to positivity, as well as a belief in challenging and expanding one’s perspective. As a perfect example of this lightness, when asked what she wishes she could tell students, she said:


“Your worth is not defined by a grade you get on an assignment, nor the grade you end the semester with. Please know that, and do not listen to anyone who tells you otherwise! While striving to do your best is a wonderful character trait, sometimes we get stuck and won't ace something - that's life! I say that, no matter what, give everything your best.”


As schools depart into the 2020-2021 school year, Carlene is encouraging all of us to mediate on patience and to be slow to anger, even when circumstances are out of our control.


When she’s not in the classroom, Carlene loves to be challenged creatively and is constantly looking for projects that will help her learn. She also enjoys an active lifestyle and spends the majority of her spare time at the gym. (“No pain, no gain!”)


Thanks, Carlene, for speaking with us! You can see all her reading recommendations and other recommendations here!