Alexis Massey learned that sometimes the best way to confirm the path you’re on is to explore another path. With a mother and stepfather in education, she grew up wanting to be a teacher. Entering college, she pursued veterinary medicine but soon found the subject matter ‘a little morbid.’ After two years, she stepped away from college and is now a permanent substitute teacher at Meridian High School. A permanent substitute is a substitute who is ‘embedded within a single school community for the duration of a school year.’
“I started wanting to be a teacher and veered away from it, and I’m right back to where I wanted to be. I’m definitely looking into returning to college and getting my teaching degree. I haven’t decided if I want to go back for science or shop or ag, but I’m leaning more towards shop and ag over science,” says Alexis.
Alexis teaches shop for Meridian. Growing up, she actively helped her stepfather renovate a home and shared that she enjoyed working with her hands, a process she found ‘more rewarding than textbook learning.’
“I fell in love with the construction side of the remodel. Meridian didn’t have a shop teacher, and I figured that was something kids need to learn,” says Alexis.
She adds, “I want to show them that there’s more than just sports and college out there. You can do something else with your hands; you don’t have to be book-smart for it. You need to work hard and love what you’re doing.”
Growing up, Alexis looked up to her mother, who works as a special education teacher for the Goreville school district. Watching how her mom worked with the children and how her interactions impacted her students’ lives, in and out of the classroom, made a lasting impression on Alexis. She considers her high school FFA instructor inspiring.
Alexis’s FFA instructor and her father and stepfather prepared her for the opportunity to teach shop long before the chance to step into the classroom presented itself. She suggests that her Agriculture Instructor ‘pretty much taught her everything,’ with her father and stepfather filling in the remaining pieces.
They taught her to take a project to completion, work with materials and use power tools. While she didn’t realize it at the time, her passion for working with her hands and their mentorship provided her with the foundational knowledge needed to step into the open shop teacher position.
In the classroom, Alexis has partnered with Meridian’s Director of Maintenance, Randy Gardner. “He has a lot of knowledge of welding and construction work. He has better knowledge and experience when it comes to some things. He’s very good at helping me come up with projects and helping teach the kids. I try to talk to the kids in a way they understand to help them understand,” says Alexis.
But ultimately, she sees her role as far more than simply teaching kids basic shop skills such as mechanics and carpentry. “We have kids that care about each other. We have kids that want to be here and learn. It gets me emotional because I had a lot growing up. Seeing some of these kids and hearing their stories hurts my heart because I want to be that person that helps them. I want to be that person they can talk to about things happening when they don’t have anyone to talk to.”
Whether it’s the chance to work with her hands or the opportunity to become a teacher, Alexis has realized her passions. Now she wants to provide others with that same gift and considers Meridian the perfect place to do it.