BANGS — You might think Kendra Newton always wanted to be a history teacher.

After all, as a child growing up in the Corpus Christi area, Newton would admittedly “torture my family members on vacation to stop at every historical marker … ever since I was little bitty, I wanted to stop at museums and stop at historical markers.”

But Newton started college at Baylor University as a graphic design major, an interest fueled by her work on the yearbook staff as a senior at Gregory-Portland High School.

“I had no idea that I wanted to be a teacher,” Newton said during her conference period in her eighth-grade U.S. history classroom at Bangs Middle School. “God just kept pointing me in that direction until it could not longer be denied.”

It was hardly a case of being dragged kicking and screaming into education. Newton, a 13-year teaching veteran — 11 at Bangs Middle School — laughs quickly and easily when she explains the circumstances that prompted her to change her major to education at Baylor.

As a freshman at Baylor, Newton volunteered at the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco. “I finally just said to myself, what am I doing?’” Newton said. “I love being around kids. … I just realized I was waking up excited the days that I got to volunteer. I really had no idea that that’s what I wanted to do, but you know how God keeps chipping away at you.”

Another factor in her decision: Newton had been taking art classes. “That was what I pursued in college, and then I realized that I was enjoying the art history part more than the art part,” Newton said. “And then of course my volunteer work outside just convinced me that I wanted to be history teacher.”

After college, Newton taught for two years at Brownwood Middle School before teaching in Bangs.

And although Newton didn’t, at first, realize she wanted to be a history teacher, she said she’s “always loved history … that’s what I always tell my kids: the greatest thing about United States history is, this is our story.

“I always tell them: ‘to find solid ground in the future, we’ve got to walk through the past with eyes wide open.’ And those are my best days, when they repeat that back to me because I know they see the relevance.”

Newton said her inspiration comes from, first of all, having a great group of co-workers. Newton continued, “and I just want the kids to know how important they are to us, and that when we leave this classroom, they’re still on our minds.

“We’re still troubled with the things that are troubling them. We’re still celebrating that I-got-it moment or laughing at the things they said. That’s the cool thing about eighth-graders. They come to you with all these insecurities about whether they’re a child or a young adult, and then at the end of the year they have this new-found confidence and you’re just thankful to be a small part of it.”

For a photo, Newton rounded up teachers on her eighth-grade team and asked them to come into her classroom.

“We’re in this together,” Newton said. “This is a group that truly cares about each other and truly cares about the kids and they inspire me every day. It’s a great place to be.” 

Newton and her husband, Charlie, are the parents of a 3 1/2-year-old son.