July 24, 2021

Lagrange College profiles HCES teacher Blake Alford

Blake Alford with some of her students at Heard County Elementary School

Article written by Trevor Wenners, Assistant Director of Sports Information at Lagrange College

(Franklin, GA) — LaGrange College offered Blake Alford the best of both worlds.

The institution gave autonomy and a new chapter, while keeping her close to home in Franklin, Georgia. Alford played three years of competitive tennis at LC, built authentic relationships and pursued a variety of interests.

“I started out as a religion major and Dr. David Ahearn encouraged me to take Introduction to Education during an advisement session when we talked about my future,” said Alford.

“Without that conversation, I may not be where I am now. Playing a collegiate sport helped keep me busy, gave me a different set of friends and made me feel an even bigger part of the LC community.”

LaGrange College has a reputation of unlocking endless possibilities and empowering students to become the best version of themselves. Alford walked onto campus with more questions than answers, but quickly began to forge a path for future success.

Alford has earned three degrees from LC. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education in 2014, received a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction in 2017 and earned an educational specialist degree in curriculum and instruction in 2019.

She has been employed by Heard County Elementary School for seven years, working six as a first-grade teacher and one as a pre-kindergarten instructor.

Alford served on the superintendent’s committee for three years and spent three years coaching the Heard County High School men’s and women’s tennis teams.

A 2010 graduate of Heard County High School, she finished with a combined 13 singles wins and 11 doubles victories during her junior and senior seasons at LC. LaGrange qualified for the USA South tournament in 2013 and 2014.

The Panthers went 16-15 overall and 12-11 in the conference during those two seasons.

Alford took some time to speak about her LC experiences and the challenges in her profession during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Who was a source of inspiration for you at LC?

A: Dr. Don Livingston has been my mentor for many years. During my time completing three education degrees at LC, I got to know him well. The way he knows his material, makes class fun and engaging and how he develops mutual respect for his students are all things that I hope to emulate in my own career as an educator.

Blake Alford (Photo: Lagrange College Sports)

Q: Could you reflect on your Panther tennis career?

A: I grew so much as a tennis player during my time at LaGrange. I had only played two years prior to college. Head coach Matt Donnett was able to give me some fundamental techniques that I had never learned, which really helped my game. Playing both doubles and singles helped make me a more well-rounded and smarter tennis player because the strategies for each are different. All these things were helpful as I transitioned into a coach myself.

Q: What do you miss most about playing collegiate tennis?

A: When I think back to college, the thing I miss the most is playing competitive tennis. I enjoyed watching and cheering on the rest of my teammates when it was their turn on the courts. We always had the best time and bonded on road trips. Getting to see other players off the court at award banquets and dinner was great too.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between Franklin and LaGrange?

A: Even though the two cities are close in proximity, they feel worlds apart. My entire county growing up only had one red light, so coming to LaGrange, I felt like I was big time. There was fast food, Walmart and a movie theater. The LaGrange College community was small enough to still give me a feeling of home that I was accustomed to. Living in the dorms was my favorite part. I had neighbors for the first time and there was always someone around to hang out with.

Q: Could you explain the challenges of being an educator during the pandemic?

A: Luckily, my school system has embraced face-to-face learning during the 2020-21 school year, but I still feel huge pressure to overcome the academic gaps that were made over the spring and summer when the pandemic began. A small group of students are still learning virtually, and I worry about how far behind they will be when they return. Teaching lower grades, it has been difficult to try to keep students apart or from sharing everything they own. I am beyond ready for school to go back to normal when there are less protocols to follow.

Q: How have you stayed involved in the LC community after graduation?

A: Over the years, I have attended various activities, such as homecoming, plays, senior art shows and Kappa Delta sorority events. I love reading the Columns magazine and keeping up with my peers and teachers on social media platforms.

Q: If you could explain yourself in two sentences to someone you just met, what would you say?

A: I am a person who cares deeply about the world and the people in my life. You can always count on me to go the extra mile because I want to be known as someone who is both successful and kind.

Q: Could you name five adjectives that best describe you?

A: Determined, loyal, thoughtful, adventurous and independent.

To read more about Lagrange College Athletics, visit lagrangepanthers.com. Trevor Wenners can be reached at twenners@lagrange.edu.

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