Teacher of the Week: Henson reading into the power of words


Nandini Muresh

Coppell High School AP English Language and Composition teacher Tracy Henson displays a summer reading book along with other literature students will be studying throughout the course of the year. Henson has been a teacher at CHS for 20 years and has been teaching the AP English 3 course and grew up in Coppell.

Shrayes Gunna, Staff Writer

In the faint moments between grading a new round of essays and picking the girls up from soccer, Coppell High School AP English Language and Composition teacher Tracy Henson can be spotted in her backyard, enveloped by the buzzing of cicadas, crisp evening breeze and the warmth of sunlight on her pale skin. She isn’t doing anything but basking in the sunset, which is precisely something for Henson. Just enough to relieve her from a long day of giving herself to others, whether it be the kids at home or kids at school. 

Now, on her 20th year teaching, Henson recollects the pieces of the puzzle that make her, her. Pieces of the puzzle from English to “Yellowstone” to late night drives accompanied by Harry Styles’ vibrato. Henson’s classroom is decorated with plush couches and the natural sunshine that  just barely leaks into the dimmed four walls, a testament to her laidback frame.

How long have you been teaching at CHS, and what compels you to keep teaching?

This is year 20 at CHS, and I’ve been teaching the AP English 3 course for about 16-17 of those years. What keeps me coming back to the classroom is being able to watch students learn, grow and leave [as] different people and students than what they were when they came in. My favorite aspect is getting to know students, and helping them set goals for themselves and watching them achieve said goals. In terms of struggles, being an English teacher for an AP course, it’s hardest to change the mindsets of some of the students entirely focused on their grade and trying to get them to be a little more thoughtful and reflective and a little more concerned with their growth and learning. 

What fulfills you about teaching English, and why did you make that choice in the first place?

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but my journey to picking English pertained to a little bit of meandering. I started out as an elementary education major, but when I realized that those were not my people, I went in search of my people. I ended up finding them in an intro to literature class during my sophomore year of college, and I really fell in love with my professors and the people. People that I felt saw the same things in the world and understood life and art the same way that I do. So that really is what brought me to English.

Did you grow up in Coppell?

I was born and raised in Coppell, and I come from an old family in Coppell. My mother was born and raised in Coppell, and my grandmother attended late elementary and middle school here in Coppell. There wasn’t a high school at the time, so she had to go to high school in Carrollton: the only high school that was offered. So a long, long family line here. My grandmother’s parents were ranchers, and they moved all over the country. My great grandfather did a lot of farmhand work and things on cattle ranches, and he finally saved up enough money to buy their own piece of land here in Coppell, just enough that they had a small cattle farm/ranch here.

Did you always want to be a teacher?

My sister was six years older than me, so by the time I was born, she was in school. And some of my oldest memories are my sister, making me play librarian. We would set up library books all over the house, and we had our own little scanning system and all. I always knew that that’s what I wanted to do. When I look back on it, I also think that it is a little bit of a product of my raising. Neither of my parents have college degrees, and for whatever reason, I think teaching also felt attainable for me in some way. It felt familiar, so sometimes when I think about if I was super brave and would have just gone after something big and crazy, I would have loved to get into politics. I would have loved to be a speech writer or maybe a lawyer.

What are your long term and short term goals?

My husband and I started our own small business about a year ago. COVID-19 wasn’t super friendly to us financially, so we started this business as a way to increase our income. It turned out to be something that we both really enjoy doing, where we refinish and flip furniture. Our goals right now really revolve around moving that business into something more serious. My husband has worked in the car business for 25 years, and he would like to stop working because he doesn’t enjoy interactions with customers the way he used to. So that’s kind of been our focus: to get that up and running so he can have a change of career.

What’s your favorite piece of art—literary, visual, fine?

My favorite piece of literature is a book called Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was released when I was in high school, and so I read it as a teenager. There’s something about the book that feels like it’s speaking to you on some level, that you’re being seen or understood. Everybody, no matter how popular you might be in other people’s eyes, understands the notion of being an outcast or feeling out of place or feeling like you are that wallflower. 

If you could go back in time and change anything about your life, what would it be?

I’m one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason. Even some of the bad things in my life that I could do without. They made me who I am, so I don’t necessarily have one moment in my life. I mean, if I could change something like not losing my grandmother when I was young, I would because I would love to have my grandma back, but really there is nothing I regret. 

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