Gregory King believes in miracles and he’s starting to prove that they are possible. Mr. King is a 5th grade teacher at Dixie Elementary, and he has a lot to do with the great strides that the school is making.
Class Act recently selected Mr. King to receive the Hilliard Lyon’s Teacher Excellence Award. The decision was easy to make after being welcomed by Mr. King to visit his classroom and experience his teaching first hand. Many adults might assume that kids just have a hard time listening, or holding their attention on anything for an extended time period, or even behaving themselves. It can be hard as a teacher to make any headway on a lesson plan because it seems like there are so many other challenges to work through. This is not so in Mr. King’s classroom. How does he do it? What is different in Mr. King’s classroom? We’ll get to that below.
Mr. King grew up in a military family and he spent many of his childhood years on a military base in Germany, in a small village. “It took a village to raise a child,” says Mr. King, “and the child (was) thought of first.” Even after Mr. King came back to the States following his high school graduation, it is apparent that he never lost that mentality. Although he didn’t go straight into teaching, his care for children, would be evident as he proceeded through his career.
Coming back to America, Mr. King would move to Fort Knox Kentucky where he received a loan from Fort Knox Credit Union to attend Murray State University studying Business Management and Information Technology. He was a walk-on to the football team at Murray, and then received a full-ride scholarship for football the following year. Before even finishing at Murray, King went to work for CH Robinson as a Property Broker. After gaining some experience there and completing his bachelor’s degree, he went on to start his own asphalt business. As the economy began to decline, he heard about an opportunity to work as a substitute teacher in ’91, so he signed up and took a stab at that!
His first day as a sub was at Wilkerson Elementary. He loved it! He walked out of that classroom at the end of the day and the other teachers we amazed at how well behaved and engaged the students were. He said it was easy for him. It came naturally, and he knew that he had found his calling in teaching.
Mr. King went through the process of passing the praxis and would eventually finish his master’s degree in education. He started as a full time teacher at Mill Creek Elementary teaching Kindergarten, he would then teach 1st grade at Fairdale for 12 years and finally find himself at Dixie Elementary – now in his fourth year. All throughout this journey, King has been convinced that miracles are possible and he doesn’t believe in incremental change but that big things can happen. His expectations are always high, and his results seem to meet them!
So how does he do it? Well it’s hard for a natural to describe these sorts of things, but here are a few examples that we picked up on from talking with him: From day one, Mr. King tells the students what’s expected of them. He tells them that they can work with him through the year and have a good time, or he’ll “drag them along.” No matter what, they will get through the year and they will learn, because he is “mandated to teach and they are mandated to learn.” He doesn’t allow bad behavior either. From the start, he addresses his students if they act up. Staying calm, he tells them that they can’t be that way in his classroom and that throwing a fit isn’t going to change anything. He stands by what he says. From there on out, it’s “smooth sailing.”
King also makes sure to give good behavior all the attention and he does not give bad behavior any positive attention. He also expects the attention of his students. King explains that when you catch the eye of a student and you see that they are really engaged in what you are saying, you “better teach them.”
In Mr. King’s classroom, the kids are attentive, they ask engaging questions and they get involved. They even help each other if someone in their group is off track. When it’s time for questions, every student has a question and students tend not to get distracted by all the other things surrounding their environment.
Mr. King also doesn’t miss an opportunity to teach. Once, when a student came to class to talk about a presidential candidate, he didn’t stop the conversation of a difficult topic, he allowed the students to discuss what they knew about government and about the different branches and how they relate. He then proceeded to give his students an opposing argument so that they had to think. It didn’t matter to him if she was right or wrong, but he wanted to encourage her to understand another point of view.
Furthermore, when students in his class start to feel like they don’t have a say or can’t make a difference in America because of the color of their skin, he walks them through history so that they can see the many figures in our past who have had a voice and taken action.
Mr. King allows his students to dream, but he also isn’t afraid to be real with them. For instance, many of his students want to be athletes or musicians, but he explains to them that only 2% of elementary athletes will continue in middle school, and only 2% of those will make the high school team, and only 1% will make it to college sports, and less than that will make a profession out of it. Furthermore, he tells them that many of them just don’t have the skills to make the team. But he doesn’t stop there, he also tells them that there is some area where they can be in the 2%. Maybe they’ll be in the 2% as an accountant or as a teacher. They need to find out where they can use their talents and their skills to be the best that they can be. This is a lot better, King says, than the students learning this later in life. King goes on to say that we shouldn’t praise our students for everything they do because they become desensitized to it. We need to prepare them for the real world.
Speaking of the real world, King explained that many of these students have a lot to face already in their life outside of school. They are immediately surrounded by peer pressures, drug influences at home, and a slew of other challenges. But Mr. King says that “People don’t give children credit…” and that “school can be the main influence.”
In short, it would appear that Mr. King’s success in the classroom comes from the fact that the students know that he cares for them and they know that he will be real with them. They also know what’s expected; and it’s a lot, but they rise to that expectation. Some would even call it a miracle.
Here at Class Act, we are proud to call Gregory King a member of our credit union for the past 13 years and recipient of the Class Act Teacher Excellence Award.