UT Martin Parsons Center grad combines education dreams with dedication

When Hayden Bass, of Hohenwald, was in the first grade, he was so fascinated by riding the school bus that he wanted to drive one of his own when he grew up. When he graduated from high school in 2019, he bought one of his school district’s buses when it went up for auction. Although Bass’ goals have grown and shifted over the course of his life, his school bus is a testament to his dedication to making his dreams a reality.

Bass completed another step toward achieving his goals when he received his Bachelor of Science in Education during the University of Tennessee at Martin Spring Commencement, May 7, in the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center. He earned his degree while attending the UT Martin Parsons Center, one of the university’s five regional centers in West Tennessee.

Bass’ passion for education started from kindergarten, when his love for going to school every day motivated him to put together his own classroom to teach in. “My mom knew how my day went at school and what I’d learned based on what I went home and taught in my classroom,” Bass said.

The more time Bass spent in school, the more he wanted to emulate the leaders he met in his own school. His third-grade principal, Trent Hill, inspired him to want to become a principal himself, and as he grew older, he developed an interest in serving as a superintendent and an education commissioner.

One thing that drives Bass’ passion to teach is the opportunity to serve as a positive male role model for his young students. Bass did not have a male teacher until middle school, and although he had wanted to teach from a young age, having a male teacher affirmed his interest even more. By teaching in elementary school classrooms, he hopes to serve as a role model during formative years for children who may not have a positive male role model at home.

“Kids are excited when I walk in; they’ll say, ‘Oh, we’ve got a boy teacher today.’”

“Not all kids have a dad or both parents. Some kids live with their grandparents,” Bass said. “Kids are excited when I walk in; they’ll say, ‘Oh, we’ve got a boy teacher today.’”

One of Bass’ first experiences with the Parsons Center was through his sister, who attended the center and went on to become an eighth-grade math teacher. One of the major draws was that the Parsons Center is 45 minutes away from his hometown, which allowed him to commute to school while still living with his family and community.

During his orientation, Dr. Kelli Deere, director of the Parsons Center, urged students to begin their college experience with the end in mind and make choices that get them closer to their goals. Throughout his time as a student at the Parsons Center, Bass kept this sentiment in mind with every choice he made.

“I did not stop because I knew I had to work hard for my goals, to get my master’s and my Ed.S. (education specialist degree). I was always thinking, ‘What’s my next step and how can I get there?’”

“I went to school through the summer so that I could graduate in three years,” Bass said. “I did not stop because I knew I had to work hard for my goals, to get my master’s and my Ed.S. (education specialist degree). I was always thinking, ‘What’s my next step and how can I get there?’”

On top of his course load, Bass was active within the university community. He served as a student ambassador for the Parsons Center starting in his freshman year, which allowed him to visit local schools to talk about his experiences, plan events for his fellow students and cultivate a community of like-minded students across disciplines. He also served as the second-ever representative for the Parsons Center in the UT Martin Student Government Association during his senior year. This opportunity allowed him to help enact change and provide his unique perspective as a student from a regional center.

Another way that Bass kept pushing toward his goals was leaning on others when he needed support. The comfort that Bass received from his family and his faith during times of adversity allowed him to persevere through any obstacle he faced.

“I remember at commencement, during (Chancellor Keith Carver’s) speech, we were asked to give a round of applause for our family, and I got chills because my family always supported me,” Bass said.

“I remember at commencement, during (Chancellor Keith Carver’s) speech, we were asked to give a round of applause for our family, and I got chills because my family always supported me,” Bass said. “I had to study very hard, and I’m not a good test taker, so I always had to put in extra effort. I take pride in having graduated, and I’m thankful for my family and for the Lord.”

By practicing self-discipline and building his leadership skills during his collegiate career, Bass has prepared himself to serve as a role model and set his students up for success.

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