A former superintendent and educator spoke to Morgan County teachers last Friday about the importance of forming relationships with their students.
Dr. Ed Nichols has spent 30 years in public education. He grew up under two parents that both dropped out of high school and thought that he would never attend college.
“This is my third-grade teacher,” Nichols said, gesturing to a picture. “When I got into her class, I had been in four schools in two years.”
She asked Nichols to stay after class with her to clean erasers and help her read stories for class.
“It wasn’t until I was about 25 that I figured out what she was doing,” he said. “I was behind everybody, and she was catching me up.”
He succeeded because educators took time with him and believed that he could accomplish himself. Teachers can either be a thermostat or a thermometer, according to Nichols.
“A thermometer only tells you the temperature. It only reacts to what’s going on around it. A thermostat sets the temperature. Are you a thermostat in your classroom?”
Nichols had several dynamic teachers in his life that directed him to a future. A primary teacher that took him under her wing. A high school teacher that told him he could go to college. A band director that taught him how to play the tuba and helped him get a music scholarship to the University of Tennessee.
“I had to believe my teacher had a promise, and that promise was: I will not let Ed Nichols fail,” he said. “All you can guarantee is what you will do with a child.”
Relationships with students are more important than lesson plans and strategic plans. People will remember the experiences, Nichols said.
“We got into this business because some teacher touched our lives. Some teacher loved us. Some teacher took extra time with us. Some teacher made us feel special, and that’s what we want to do,” he said. “What you do in a child’s life will never go away.”
This is the case for Terrell McCullers, who works at Morgan County Primary School.
“I was blessed to be at a high school that there were tons of caring teacher,” McCullers said. “Coach Smith. He was a swim coach…He’ll do anything and everything to help you in the school and off the school. I always wanted to be a teacher like that. He inspired me to become a teacher.”
McCullers has been teaching around seven years and recently moved into the school system from Newton County.
“I was pretty skeptical coming in to a new system. Just to kinda see what the atmosphere would be here,” he said. “And it didn’t disappoint. It got me thinking about my own teaching practices and making sure relationships are number one.” During the convocation, Representative Dave Belton for District 112, which includes Morgan and Newton counties, presented the Teacher of the Year Resolution to Heather Jackson. She teaches 8th grade ELA.