Terah Knowles

Terah Knowles is proud of her American-Indian heritage. She shares her culture as well as her love for math with the second-graders at Trout Primary.

“My mother raised us to be prideful of where we came from; be proud of our family members,” Knowles said. “I feel being American-Indian is her proudest badge of honor.”

Knowles recently shared her heritage with her students as she showed them Indian turquoise jewelry. She also helped the students make and taste their own fry bread.

Second graders making fry bread.

Knowles’ American-Indian grandparents met in a refining school in Houston. During that time period, American-Indian children were removed from their parents and sent to refining schools to learn the culture of the white people in preparation for entry into a white society. As harsh as times were for the American-Indians, Knowles admits that “if you don’t take a look back, you overlook injustices.” There is a beautiful painting in a Dallas museum of her grandmother wearing an Indian headdress, jewelry and beaded clothing. Her family is from the Cherokee and Osage tribes.

Knowles was born in Houston and moved to Lufkin with her family before her kindergarten year in school. She attended Trout Primary, the same school where she teaches today. She was a 2000 graduate of Lufkin High School and a teenage mom. She was only 17 when she had her daughter, Katelyn, and at the time she did not feel that an education was attainable. She spent the next 15 years teaching at First Christian Pre-School. Knowles went back to school at age 30 and enjoys teaching second grade.

“Second grade is the sweet spot. They still need you and love you,” she said. “I do an attention-getter every day, and we sing songs. One of my students said, ‘When you sing, your voice sounds like angels and cupcakes.’ I went home and told my husband, ‘Did you know that your wife’s voice sounds like angels and cupcakes?’ Who knew? I just love second grade.”

A painting of Knowles’ grandmother in a Dallas museum.

Even with all the students’ sweetness, there are still challenges.

“Meeting every child where they are — and being able to navigate that,” Knowles said. “I don’t always know what they need, and they can’t always tell you.

“The best part of teaching is building relationships and seeing the ‘Aha! moments’ — like, a lightbulb literally goes off.”

Knowles was surprised to discover that math is her favorite subject to teach.

“I love math,” she said. “We’re studying fractions right now. I never thought that I would love teaching math. My favorite time of the day is teaching math.”

Knowles has had great mentors who helped her become the teacher she is today. She spoke about Megan Sullivan and Amanda Gentry and the lessons they taught her.

“Megan Sullivan is phenomenal, especially her classroom management. She thinks out everything … teaches on purpose,” Knowles said. “Amanda Gentry is very big on building relationships with kids.”

In her spare time, Knowles enjoys being on the water, reading and traveling.

“We’re water people,” she said. “We love the lake. We have an RV parked at the beach.”

She and her husband, Jake, have three Bassett hounds. Knowles begins her day at 4 a.m. with a workout with her husband and walks her dogs.

“I’m a structure person,” Knowles said. “I think that’s why teaching has been good for me. I have to be flexible. It’s forced me to be more fluid.”

Thankfully, Knowles’ is in a position where she can pass down the stories and traditions that have been passed down to her through the generations, leaving a legacy of her American-Indian heritage.