I was first inspired to teach by my mom, a history teacher of 35 years, and by my 10th grade English teacher, Ms. Turnipseed. Now, as an English teacher at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee, I enjoy the spark and “Aha!” moment on my students’ faces when they understand a concept or master a complex task. The pride and ownership they take in their work is gratifying, particularly since I set high expectations of them.

Whether learning the essential elements of an essay or tracking their goals throughout the year, the most important lesson I share with my students is to always keep trying and “ceasing with the can’t”—success is within their grasp if they are willing to put forth the effort. And often, setting the bar high is the reason for breakthrough moments.

Many of my students come into the classroom feeling disheartened by previous experiences in school or distressing circumstances outside of the classroom, and setting high expectations becomes much more than passing the class. It’s about imparting a sense of self-esteem and building confidence.

By setting high expectations for my students, I’m letting them know that I see their potential, and I believe they’re capable of meeting and even exceeding those expectations. When I show them that I believe in them, they start to believe in themselves too, and pursue dreams they had never imagined. Students have entered my classroom dreading English, and walked out with ambitions of becoming a writer.

My mission is to make my students better readers, writers and communicators. It’s rewarding when they realize that what we learn in the classroom has real-world applications, and I love knowing that they leave my classroom with a deeper understanding of how to express themselves in their lives and careers. That “Aha!” spark will keep me setting high expectations in my classroom for many years to come.

Magdalun L. Horton currently teaches English I at Manassas High School with nearly 15 years of teaching experience. A native Mississippian, Ms. Horton attended University of Mississippi, where she earned a degree in Biology and a minor in English. After undergraduate studies, she enrolled at the University of Louisiana and received a master’s degree in English.

Soon after, she gained employment as a news reporter. Although writing was and remains a passion, Ms. Horton wanted to work with children. Therefore, she completed the Teacher Education Program at the University of Memphis (Masters +45) and has been a resident of the Bluff City ever since.