MNPS Voices: Chandra West-Fort

MNPS Voices: Dr. Chandra West-Fort, English Teacher, Pearl-Cohn High School
Posted on 09/13/2023
Dr. Chandra West-Fort

Chandra Fort_West

Dr. Chandra West-Fort is a 30-year veteran educator whose passion for teaching has inspired hundreds of students to attain their highest goals and ideals.

An Auburn University alumna, West-Fort started teaching shortly after obtaining her undergraduate degree and eventually went back to school to earn her Ph.D. in 2010.

As a dual enrollment English teacher at Pearl-Cohn High School, West-Fort wakes up every morning eager and ready to share her love of reading and writing with her students.

“I love seniors. They are goal-oriented and focused. I’ve taught at the college level as well, so I like seeing that transition as the dual enrollment English program is the college-level class this year, which we do in partnership with Tennessee State University,” she said. “And you know what these students want to do for their future, and I love helping them bridge that path.”

In addition to preparing seniors for college through this robust program, West-Fort teaches several electives, including a Literary Arts elective writing class. She also teaches an English III junior class and an English IV senior class.

“I love helping students see that light go on, and that is quite rewarding,” she said. “I also love the connections I’ve made over the years, particularly in a small school like Pearl-Cohn.”

Making Learning Relevant

West-Fort’s favorite fun memory of a lesson involved introducing Beowulf, the Old English epic poem, to seniors. Chandra Fort-West in class with student

“That text and unit focused on heroes, so I asked students to define what a hero means to them,” she said. “Then we listened to and analyzed several songs about heroes before students took a survey to determine what type of heroic archetype they are, and the experience led to some great discussion and helped students connect with some really old literature!”

One reason West-Fort feels she’s been successful as an educator is that she always ensures her lessons are relevant. As she plans her day, she links the academic experience to students’ interests, such as career, sports, TV, and music.

“I always try to keep my seniors focused on the future and how they can use their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills to be successful in college and their careers,” she said.

West-Fort also finds creative ways to spark her students’ interest with activities in which they can actively engage and participate.

“For example, my students love to argue and debate topics they are interested in. We just read some texts on whether or not students should take a gap year before college and then they wrote an argument essay. There was definitely a lively debate with students on both sides!”

Ultimately, West-Fort wants students to gain a strong sense of self and the confidence to succeed in whatever they choose to do in life. “I want my students to be passionate readers, strong writers, and lifelong learners,” she said.

West-Fort also reflected on her first year as a teacher to perhaps inspire and encourage the new generation of educators.

“I wish I had known that even though I may not always see it, that I made an impact on many students' lives. I was too critical of myself as a first-year teacher, so I wish I could have enjoyed it and my students more rather than being too hard on myself,” she said.

“I feel much more confident as a teacher now, so I tell newer teachers to take it easy on themselves and enjoy it while it lasts, because 30 years goes by so fast!”

Dual Enrollment

What is dual enrollment? Metro Schools offers students excellent opportunities to earn college credit while in high school.  

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