As we celebrate Veterans Day in November, Reading Today wanted to feature an International Reading Association (IRA) member who is also a veteran. We found this hero in our midst in Nashville, Tennessee, enjoying his retirement after 38 years in the education profession.
Hoyte Snow served in the Korean War and has been a classroom teacher, elementary school principal, middle school principal, middle school director, and educational consultant. He has been an active member of the Tennessee Reading Association for over 45 years and still attends their meetings. He has also held leadership positions with the Middle Tennessee Reading Association. As well as being honored with the IRA Special Service Award in 2007, he has received the Walter Helms Service Award, the Middle School Administrator of the Year award, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Leadership Certificate of Merit, the Outstanding Community Service Award, among others. Our interview with Hoyte Snow reveals this accomplished man’s inspirational beginnings, his reading engagement secrets, and his encouraging advice to teachers practicing today.
How did you decide you wanted to be a teacher?
I grew up in a rural area of Tennessee. My father was a share cropper, and I realized I didn’t want to spend my life looking at the back end of a mule!
In third grade Miss Grace went around the room asking the kids what they wanted to be, and without hesitation I said I wanted to be a teacher.
At my high school graduation a school board member approached me and asked me to teach grades 5-8 in one room at a grades 1-10 school. I just had to take a six-week course at Middle Tennessee University over the summer.
I started teaching at age 18 in August; I turned 19 in September.
We hear that you are a Korean War veteran. Thank you for your service to America! How long did you serve in the military?
I was drafted during the Korean War in March of 1953, during my third year teaching. I asked to finish school year, and they said I couldn’t. I spent two years in Tokyo, and when I came back I started teaching fifth and sixth grade in Nashville. I also finished college, thanks to the GI Bill. (I had completed one year of college credits by taking courses on nights and Saturdays while teaching.)
Where did your career go from there?
After five years of teaching, I got a promotion. In those days you didn’t ask for a promotion, you waited for someone to ask you! The area supervisor asked me to become principal of a local school. Then I became a middle school principal, and then director of middle schools, the job from which I retired.
As a literacy educator, which classroom strategies did you use to motivate kids to read?
When I worked in a one-room classroom my strategy was to get the other students involved. I would help the eighth-graders, but if a fifth-grader needed help I would ask an eighth-grader to help him.
What did you learn during your military service that helped your teaching career?
Punctuality! Also, serving in Tokyo was my first experience working with people from other parts of the country. I also learned how to get along with different people and how important it is to get along with others.
How have you been involved in the International Reading Association?
I am a strong believer in the International Reading Association. I was Tennessee Reading Association (TRA) president in 1984 and chaired a state conference. I still go to TRA meetings; many past presidents are still active with TRA. I’ve held board position on the state and local councils, chaired two IRA regional conferences, and served on several IRA committees.
What do you consider to be the proudest moment in your teaching career?
I’d have to say it was when I was given the 2007 IRA Special Service Award. It meant a lot to be recognized by IRA.
Can you offer any advice to teachers who are new to the profession?
Teachers today are so overburdened. I would say: realize what your goal is. You are there to help children, and don’t let the regulations guide you away from your goal.