Corgis, caverns & chemistry

Science teacher shares stories about adventurous life


Alex Whelchel

Chemistry and AP Enviornmental Science teacher, Kay Newsome, has a classroom covered in corgis.

Alex Whelchel, Staff Writer

AP Environmental Science teacher Kay Newsome never has a dull moment. After working at school all week and at Natural Bridge Caverns as a tour guide on the weekends, she comes home to a house full of love – better known as her six corgis.

“It’s like living with six perpetual toddlers,” Newsome said. “They demand your attention all the time. They follow you wherever you go. If I try to go to the bathroom and shut the door, they will take their bodies and throw themselves against it.”

Submitted by Kay Newsome
Three of Newsome’s corgis.

Newsome’s love for dogs dates back to her childhood. Growing up on her family farm in a little suburb outside of Savannah, Ga., she was surrounded by animals. After her divorce, she got that final push to get one.

“It was kinda like my bounce back from divorce,” Newsome said. “I got one, and then I got another, and then I rescued some, then I got another. It just kinda snowballed from there.”

Just walking into her classroom her passion for corgis is evident.

“I love Ms. Newsome’s corgi obsession,” junior Olivia Ingram said. “Everything around her classroom has corgis on it, like her computer and calendar.”

Newsome graduated from Mercer University with a major in chemistry and education and later obtained a doctorate in secondary science curriculum.

“Right out of college, I wasn’t sure what to do,” she said, “so I began searching. I ended up joining a Catholic church. I got really interested in it, so I was going to join an order of nuns. It’s a three-year process to join, not like what you see in the movies.”

Right before she was about to complete the process to become a nun, Newsome decided to leave the church.

“I’m still a very devout Catholic,” Newsome said. “That religion kinda fits my beliefs more. It’s not as restrictive as some of the more conservative religions.”

Via Kay Newsome
Newsome on her first day of teaching, 1982.

After her experiment with being a nun, Newsome began her teaching career. When she found herself not making enough money, she knew something had to change.

“I made so little money that I actually qualified for food stamps,” Newsome said. “I mean that’s how little teachers got paid back then. My brother heard of a job right next door to the high school I worked at. It was this little, tiny chemical company that made stuff to make carpets.”

Once she discovered they were hiring, Newsome jumped at the opportunity. Because of her contract with the school though, she wasn’t able to take the job when it was offered to her. 

“They ended up holding the job for me,” she said. “After school each day, I would walk over and work for several hours. That got me into the chemical industry, and I ended up at Shell when they bought the company.”

With two decades of time being held up in a lab or office, Newsome was over it. She was ready to begin teaching again.

“I did it for nearly 20 years,” she said, “I just didn’t like it. I wanted to get back to teaching; that’s what I love.”

With that, Newsome restarted her teaching career and has been in the classroom ever since. She teaches Pre-AP Chemistry along with AP Environmental Science, which are aided by her experience in the chemical industry.

In her class, there’s evidence of her corgis spreading throughout. From the stuffed dog sitting atop her desk to the corgi calendar displayed on the wall, there’s no shortage of what she loves most.

“Ms. Newsome wears this corgi sweater and it’s my favorite thing,” junior Kaylee Carmichael said. “It has a corgi face on the front and a corgi butt on the back.”

Along with the corgis, Newsome used to live with her daughter who has since moved out and is attending Penn State. Her daughter, Natalie Reeves, found living with the corgis exhausting yet fulfilling.

“I guess at times it was very stressful having six dogs in the house,” Reeves said, “especially just wanting some peace and quiet at 6:30 in the morning. But I love them all and miss them very much.”

Once her daughter moved out to go to college, Newsome found herself living in an everlasting state of boredom.

Via Kay Newsome
Newsome and her daughter, Natalie, on vacation in New Zealand.

“I had to figure out what I could do that would interest me.” Newsome said, “I’ve always liked hiking and caves and being outside. I noticed (Natural Bridge Caverns was) hiring a tour guide so I said ‘Sure, why not’?’ And boom, I got hired and I love it.”

With Natural Bridge being a good first job for teenagers, Newsome finds herself working with former and current students.

“It’s fun working with Ms. Newsome,” junior Lauren Barefoot said. “I get to talk to her about normal things besides school. I treat her like any other coworker.”

Even though Newsome has a few years on most of her coworkers, she’s still just like them. Whether it’s cleaning the toilets or picking up trash, Newsome and Barefoot receive equivalent treatment.

“They get to see me in another light,” Newsome said. “They get to see me as just tour guide Kay. I make mistakes just like they do. I’m just another employee.”

Newsome’s daughter is the first to praise her mom as a teacher and a mother. Even hundreds of miles away at college, Reeves can feel how proud her mom is of her.

She is always happy at the end of the day,” Reeves said. “Whether it was only one student or many, she tried her best to support them in any way she could. She may come off (as) being mean and scary. Lord knows she is when she is angry, but really she just wants people to do their best and succeed.”