Thornton Academy News

  • Middle School
Featured Faculty/Staff: Liz Cooney–TAMS 6th Grade Teacher
6th Grade Teacher Liz Cooney dresses in traditional Day of the Dead garb

This week’s featured faculty is another member of the TAMS Team; Liz Cooney! Both of Ms. Cooney’s grandmothers were teachers, and she remembers them influencing her and her sister when they would “play school” as children. “She was younger so I always got to be the teacher!” Her grandmothers were an inspiration to her; they loved their jobs and shared many fond memories of their years in the classroom. They inspired her to “go with her heart“ and pursue a teaching degree at the University of Southern Maine, even after spending many years working in the corporate world. 

Ms. Cooney has been teaching for 21 years; 18 of them have been spent with the 6th graders who have a very special place in her heart. She was one of TAMS’ original "founding fathers" and she loves being a part of the TAMS community. “It is such a big transitional time in their lives and I just love their curious and fun-loving personalities.” Ms. Cooney also teaches drama and has been the Recognition Committee Coordinator for more than 13 years. These quarterly recognition assemblies celebrate academics, sports, the arts, school, and community citizenship; Ms. Cooney loves them because they are “ALL ABOUT OUR STUDENTS,” and that is exactly what she is all about!

6th grade teacher liz Cooney stands with 6 of her students.

What is the best thing about teaching at TA? What is the most challenging?
Best: I have taught in two other districts and feel that TA is, by far, the best professional experience I have had. There have been a lot of changes over the years, but the most important foundation of this great school has not. I have a principal and headmaster who have always respected and supported me, both personally and professionally. I have colleagues who are thoughtful, brilliant, and who challenge themselves to continually improve their craft and inspire me to do the same. My students and their parents take pride in being part of such a forward-thinking academic, athletic, and artistic community.  

Most challenging: The end of last year and the start of this new year is challenging us all—no question.  Administration, teachers, staff, students, and their parents all have had to adjust to countless changes in the way we lead, support, teach, and learn. When asked what I find most challenging, I cannot help but feel that the minimized human connections and interactions with students is what I find most challenging. To not see their beautiful smiles breaks my heart. To not be able to see the sadness on their faces when they need a hug, breaks my heart. To not be able to observe them work together on hands-on projects is also heartbreaking. Although all the precautions are absolutely necessary, the impact and effect they have on my relationships with students are the biggest challenge of my teaching career.

An image of 6th grade teacher Liz Cooney's class.

What is your favorite teaching memory? 
To pick a favorite teaching memory is a challenge because I have been blessed with countless "favorite" experiences through the years. What instantly comes to mind is when I see students out in the community, sometimes long after I had them in my classroom—some of them are now parents themselves. When they quote something I said or a silly song that I created to help them remember a math rule, or the time I hugged them and ate lunch with them when they were experiencing great sadness, or the time I went to their championship football game and they came to the bleachers at halftime to thank me for coming. A great "teacher moment" for me was when a former student (TA graduate) received the Fitzpatrick Award, an award given to the best high school senior football player in the State of Maine. He thanked me, his sixth grade teacher, in his acceptance speech. It is true that students don't necessarily remember what you taught them, they remember how you treated them and how you made them feel. My favorite memories are their favorite memories. 

What do you hope for your students? 
I hope that my students understand that learning is a way to become the best they can be.  I hope they see the value of the "life skills " we worked on in my class, beyond the curriculum requirements, such as collaboration, patience, compassion, perseverance, positive attitude, open-mindedness, to name a few.  Through our work in a unit I teach called Understanding Culture, I hope they continue to respect people who are different from themselves.  I hope they forever remain curious and that their curiosity fuels their passion to keep learning!  I have a lot of "hopes" for my students and they give me a lot of hope too.

What do you hope for the future of TA? 
TA is a progressive, innovative school filled with talented leaders, on all levels. TA's relentless efforts toward continuous excellence will always be part of the success seen throughout the entire community. Always has been, always will be!

Thank you, Ms. Cooney, for being ALL ABOUT YOUR STUDENTS!
Your compassion and care has (and continues to) make a difference to so many.