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Teaching the generations
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Working with students as a paraprofessional at Porterdale Elementary School in 1974, Debbie Gossage realized she wanted to become a teacher.

She pursued that dream, studying education at the University of Georgia while raising her two young daughters. Little did Gossage know that while she was learning about being an educator, her daughters were as well.

Gossage, 64, retired from teaching in 2003, but her passion for educating children is continuing through her own children, Mansfield Elementary School teacher Carroll Moss, 44, and Newton County Theme School at Ficquett teacher Holly Kaas, 41.

The two women credit their mom with inspiring them to turn to teaching, which they both admit was not their first career choice.

Moss said she studied journalism at the University of Georgia with hopes of becoming a television “weather girl.” After attending some classes, however, she realized that it wasn’t quite for her.

Moss later continued her education at Georgia College, now Georgia College and State University, and after graduation, she joined the Newton County School System, where she has been teaching for more than 20 years.

Kaas, who graduated with a degree in history also from Georgia College and State University, said she fought following in her mom’s footsteps for years.

“[History] was my first love and everybody, father, mother said, ‘What are you going to do with a history degree?” and I was like ‘Oh, there’s lots’ — there’s nothing, actually,” Kaas said with a smile.

Toughing it out in corporate America, Kaas had a teaching certificate because her mom recommended that she get one after she graduated from college. By the time Kaas turned 30, she said she still hadn’t found what she wanted to do, and decided to give teaching a shot.

“I interviewed in Henry County with only a history degree and a teaching test, and [they] hired me on the spot to teach sixth-grade social studies,” Kaas said.

Kaas explained that her sister and mom taught lower grades, something she didn’t feel she wanted to do. However, she realized that she did enjoy teaching middle- and high-schoolers, which she has been doing for more than a decade.
Gossage said she is pleased with the choice her daughters have made to teach, saying that they were learning as young girls.

“When I was in classes at UGA in the summer, they were there with me at some of those classes,” Gossage said.

Moss chimed in on growing up watching their mom study education and teaching scores of students through the years.

“We were bored to death … [but] we were listening and taking all in, you know, those education classes,” Moss said. “My mom [took] us to school with her and we were her assistants … we put up bulletin boards, we put up the desk, we did all that stuff for her.”

Kaas said she even remembers the times she has watched her mom cry when a student passed away or lost a loved one, saying she has realized now as an adult how her students become somewhat like her children.

“This lady said to me, no matter who they are, they are somebody’s baby. And that has stuck with me for 12 years,” Kaas said.

The three aren’t the only educators in their family. Kaas and Moss’ dad and stepmom were teachers, and the family has about eight to 10 other relatives educating students.

Though Gossage has retired, she said she volunteers in her daughters’ classrooms, where it brings her joy to see how much her daughters care about their students.

“When we are all out together, parents and students will come over and give them a big hug and tell them how much they miss being in their class,” she said. “I’m so proud of both of them for teaching.”