The “L” Word: Extraordinary Educator Tessa Pendley 

Tessa Pendley, Extraordinary Educator at Union Hill Elementary School in High Point, NC smiles at the camera.

While many educators begin their careers because of their passion for learning, it’s not every teacher that remembers there is something even more important than learning when it comes to the teacher-student relationship. For Extraordinary Educator, Tessa Pendley, she knows there’s another “L” word that needs the spotlight in her classroom: “love.”  

“When my students leave my classroom,” says Tessa, “I want them to know (without any doubt!) that they are loved!”  

An English Learners teacher at Union Hill Elementary School, Tessa was nominated as an Extraordinary Educator by her principal, Shayla Savage. And Principal Savage acknowledges that it’s not just Tessa’s teaching skills that make her a great educator; it’s her philosophy on how she treats each and every student. 

“Ms. Pendley changes lives as she daily transforms students with poor reading and social skills into confident learners and leaders of our school,” Principal Savage says. “She treats students with dignity and respect and constantly rewards them for their great behavior and academic achievements.” 

For Tessa, treating students with respect and dignity guides every decision she makes in the classroom. She draws great inspiration for that teaching ideology from the following quote:  

“With an allegiance to our students, we find ourselves drawn into families and communities. Our commitment stretches. We take their side too, the side of humanity. This stance draws energy, sustenance, and direction from taking the side of our students, and it branches out. As it radiates away from the homeroom, from the class and the school, the classroom functions as a kind of atlas to the larger world. If, for example, in our classrooms we insist that every student is a three-dimensional creature much like ourselves, with hopes, dreams, aspirations, skills, desires, and so on… then we carry that practice outward, we extend it, and we insist that every single human life, even those we will never know, is sacred, each of incalculable value. If we develop a stance in our classrooms based on the faith that every student can learn, can grow, can change, then we operate in the world beyond with that same principle intact—every person can learn and can grow, each of us is capable of change, each is a work in progress.” – B.A.

Tessa notes that she loves that there is “never a dull moment,” in her classroom. It’s no surprise that every day in Tessa’s classroom is special, when you see the kind of motivation and drive she has for getting to know each of her students as whole, unique people.  

Tessa is also extremely passionate about supporting public education as a whole in High Point and Guilford County, noting her support for the #RedforEd movement, an awareness-raising campaign that advocates for public educations rights and support. She also demonstrates love and advocacy for High Point’s public schools as a member of Guilford County Association of Educators (GCAE), North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), and National Education Association (NAE).  

“As a proud GCAE/NCAE/NEA member, the best way I know how to demonstrate school spirit is to do the work of advocating for all public schools,” Tessa says.  

When it comes to her own school, Tessa says that her time at Union Hill has been invaluable.  

“I love teaching at Union Hill because I have incredible colleagues,” she concludes. “There’s no question that we are a staff that loves our students and wants the very best for them. We work hard every single day to meet their needs and help them grow. It feels great to be part of such an amazing team.”  

Discover our High Points, 

The HPD Team  

Photography by Maria West Photography