Fellowship helps veteran teacher reach goal of becoming a reading specialist
Natasha Haskins discovered her love of kids when she was selling them Little Debbie cakes and slushies— nothing that was good for them,” she said.
Haskins ’06 was working part time in the cafeteria at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg and full time for a printing company when she discovered her passion. “The kids just kind of gravitated toward me,” she said. “A lot of the kids just wanted someone to listen.”
The experience led Haskins to enroll at Longwood, where her goal was to become a teacher. She reached that goal, landing a position as a second-grade teacher at Appomattox Primary School after graduating in 2006. In early August, she will finish her master’s degree in Longwood’s Reading, Literacy and Learning program.
“I love teaching, and I love the kids,” she said. “I have not had a bad day in 10 years. I wake up every day and love my job. I could spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the classroom.”
Haskins is a recipient of the Ann Snyder Simmons Fellowship, which was established by Simmons ’60 and her husband, Howell Simmons. Ann Simmons, now retired, was Virginia’s Reading Teacher of the Year in 1986, an honor she earned during her career as a reading specialist in the Fairfax County and Falls Church schools.
Thanks to the Simmonses, the costs of Haskins’ first two semesters of graduate study were covered. Haskins had the opportunity to meet with Howell Simmons on campus in March and was awed by his generosity. “He asked if the fellowship was enough,” she said.
Haskins, who wants to be a reading specialist or reading coach, no doubt impressed Mr. Simmons with her perseverance and work ethic. She has continued teaching while pursuing her master’s degree, a challenge in itself— but that effort pales in comparison with the grueling schedule she kept as an undergraduate. During those years, she worked the 11 p.m.- 7 a.m. shift at R.R. Donnelley Printing in Lynchburg. Plus, she was raising her son, Michael St. John, now 25.
“After I got off from working an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at R.R. Donnelley, I would drive to Farmville—I would always change my clothes and freshen up at the Pamplin Exxon—and have class all day,” she said. One semester, I had classes, though not straight, from 8 a.m. until 7:45 p.m., when I would go home and maybe take a 15- minute nap, or no nap at all. From Sunday night through Tuesday evening, I had no sleep. I averaged 10 hours of sleep a week that semester, which was my hardest semester, but I give God all the glory.”
Her parents, Robert and Carolyn ’98Woolridge of Pamplin, and her husband, Haywood Haskins, also were a “huge” help. Haskins, who lives in the Phenix area of Charlotte County, isn’t through with her education. She will enter the University of Virginia’s Ph.D. reading program in August 2017.
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