Nineteen MSTA members were among the 35 teachers named 2019-20 Regional Teachers of the Year as part of the Missouri Teacher of the Year program through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Each Wednesday, a new profile will be shared online celebrating these outstanding educators. You can see profiles of all 19 MSTA members honored as Regional Teachers of the Year in the Fall 2019 issue of School & Community.

School Building: Ava High School
School District:  Ava R-1
Grade/Subject taught: 10-12 English
Years teaching: 15 years

What is one of your goals for this year?

My goal for this year is two-pronged: I want to make my lessons as engaging as possible, and I want to make them as life-applicable as possible. First, students can’t learn if they aren’t engaged. And secondly, I want to make sure that everything they do learn is something that will improve the quality of life for themselves and those around them. 

Describe yourself without using the word “teacher” or “educator.” 

 I am a husband, a father, a Christian, an author, and an illustrator. I’m also a major nerd, but nerds rule the world.

Describe a moment when you knew you were following your calling.

I became a teacher as a back-up plan because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. My education courses didn’t do much to excite me about the profession, but once I got into the classroom and was able to design my own lessons, something clicked. Seeing students get a concept or become excited about learning is an amazing thing to witness, and once I did, there was no going back. Teaching is both challenging and rewarding, and that’s why it’s the job for me.

What is your teaching philosophy?

On my podium I have a three-part message:  “You matter. Education matters. What we do in this classroom matters.” My wife, who is also an English teacher, came up with that saying, and it sums up our teaching philosophy.

What’s your favorite book and why? 

“The Lord of the Rings,” will always be my favorite book because it was the first to really show me the power of literature. No other author before or since has captured my imagination like J.R.R. Tolkien did. In fact, I used to read LOTR once a year. I need to restart that tradition! 

What is something on your bucket list?

Since I teach mythology and world literature, I think it would be fun to travel to Greece and Rome in order to see some of the ancient places of the world. I’m always telling students about these places, so it would be amazing to have been there myself.

If you could see one band/performer, living or dead, in concert, who would it be?

Bob Dylan—because he’s just cool.

What superpower do you wish you had?

I wish I could speed read—at a superhero level. That would definitely make grading papers easier, but mainly it would give me a chance to read all the books I have on my waiting-to-read list.