Q. How many years have you been teaching, and what subjects and grades are you currently teaching?
A. I am in my eighth year as a teacher, currently teaching 10th-grade chemistry, and 11th-grade college preparatory physical science. I have taught sixth- through 12th-grade students -- some as many as four times.
They accuse me of following and jokingly ask, "Mrs. Neal, who are you going to go to college with?" Before teaching, I was a registered pharmacist for 25 years. I was 50 years old when I was inspired to teach.
Q. Tell us about your family.
A. I am married to Tommy Neal and we will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in December. Tommy is a lifelong resident of Thomson, a dentist, an avid gardener and fisherman.
Our older daughter Sara Lokey received a degree in string bass performance from Augusta State University, then was a public relations associate for the Augusta Symphony for three years before being "inspired" to teach.
Sara and I are the first mother-daughter pair to complete Georgia's TAPP Program -- Teacher Alternative Preparatory Program. Sara is an orchestra teacher in the Richmond County School System.
Sadly, we lost our younger daughter, Mary Claire Neal Smith in the summer of 2008. Mary was an honor graduate of Thomson High School and a four-letter scholar-athlete, winning the prestigious Mac Bowman Award her senior year. She was a graduate of the University of Georgia.
Dear to our family are our canine relatives -- Henry and Max are Jack Russell terriers, Scooter, a miniature dachshund, and Patrick, a Mountain Fiest.
Q. What do you do when you're not teaching?
A. My great passion, besides teaching, is embroidery.
My love for this art has provided me with many adventures. I have taught at needlework conferences and workshops in 39 states, and was guest artist for three seasons on a television series through Alabama's Center for Public Television.
The series is still in national syndication, and I have delighted in having Thomson residents tell me, "Hey, I saw you on TV last Saturday morning!"
I love to write, and have had a number of articles published in nationally circulated needlework magazines.
In the late 1990s, my lust for learning kicked in again, and I enrolled in classes in historical needle arts at the Royal School of Needlework in London. I spent the next five summers in London, earning the school's Certificate in Embroidery.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
A. My favorite thing about being a teacher is the "Ah-has" and the "Ha-has."
Nothing is more thrilling than seeing a student grasp a concept and make it his or her own. In that moment of learning, a life has been changed forever ... I still get goosebumps when those "Ah-has" happen in my classes.
The other thing that I love about teaching is that I laugh every single day. There has never been a day that I did not enjoy a good "Ha-ha" in the last eight years.
This was an added bonus for one who had come from the medical world, where sadness, pain and suffering was often the norm of the day.
I love the lively chatter in the hallways, and I am amused by the pseudo-drama of the teenaged world. The excitement and energy of young people are contagious.