Eleven years ago, Caroline Eddy walked the halls of Paducah Tilghman High School as a senior. She was Caroline Hutson then, and she was a member of the track team, sang in the choir and took Advanced Placement classes, thinking that once she graduated, she would likely not return except for occasional class reunions.
In August, Eddy began a new job as a gifted and talented education resource teacher for the elementary schools in the Paducah Independent School District, returning to the town where she was born and raised.
"(Paducah has) changed a lot since the last time I lived here, when I was a teenager," Eddy said. "I think it's gotten more creative. When I was here, it was already a very creative city, but I think people are wanting to invest in Paducah and invest in their local community."
The former Clark Elementary School student found herself on her old stomping grounds the first day of school this year, Aug. 12, and called walking the Clark halls again "surreal."
"It smells the exact same," she said. "It looks the same, for the most part. It was very, very surreal. When I see (CES Principal) Steve Ybarzabal -- who I had as a biology teacher in high school -- and he's like, 'How does it feel to be on the teaching side of things?' It's neat how that works out."
After Eddy graduated PTHS in 2008, she went to Georgetown College to study English and secondary education. There, she met her future husband, Matt, and the two moved to Nashville, where she taught at Christ Presbyterian Academy. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Jane.
Now back in Paducah, she will work with Paducah's elementary school students three days a week: Clark Elementary on Monday, Morgan Elementary on Tuesday and McNabb Elementary on Wednesdays.
"I'll be working with the Gifted and Talented Children," she said. "To be able to work in those three different environments and work with the kids at those schools, I think, is a really great teaching job.
"It's exciting to be able to be a part of their formative years. And, elementary school is a foundation; you're creating the foundation of learning."
Eddy will compile and analyze data, such as test scores, and determine which students qualify for the gifted and talented program. When the roster of students in the program is completed, she will help find ways to challenge those students through project-based learning.
"It's a lot of paperwork, but it's also working with the students in small groups," she said. "Just starting these kids out in elementary school has been really fun, and they love it."
Eddy found out about the Paducah job opening when CES teacher and former schoolmate Ellen Taylor heard of the opening and told Eddy's mother to tell her about it. A short time later, she found herself back in Paducah schools.
"I thought it was a really exciting thing, coming back here," she said.
Eddy credited her high school teachers and the classes she took for encouraging her to pursue a career in education. Now, she finds herself working alongside some of those same teachers.
"I have seen people who I had in high school, who I had in elementary school," she said. "Just the fact that they are still teaching -- that's really neat."
Eddy took part in the track team as a sprinter and jumper from seventh grade to graduation, where she contributed to five state championship team titles. Academically, she was in several Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
"My absolute favorite classes of my entire education was AP American history and American literature with Ms. (Ashley) Adkins and Ms. (Susan) Hancock," she said. "I really think that class inspired me to pursue English and education in college."
Eddy said she took advantage of what Tilghman had to offer.
"I took advantage of the AP classes, I took advantage of the athletic program and I also definitely took advantage of the choral program here under Art Deweese," she said. "The fact that I went to a public school and was able to sing in the Vatican my senior year, where we traveled throughout Italy and sang at the most incredible places.
"Just the opportunities that I took advantage of here were private (school)-level quality in a public school, and I was able to be a part of a very diverse culture, which is very important to me. Now, having a child, I want her to have that same experience where you get diversity, you get real-world application."
Eddy said she wants to follow the example of her teachers from first through 12th grade.
"I know that education is obviously a huge part of being a teacher," she said, "but I think it's also equally important that you invest in the student as a whole -- really get to know the student and where they come from. ... Being able to have that opportunity to do that as a teacher, I think, is one of the most valuable aspects of being in this school system and being a teacher."