Jimmy Bennett was named the Teacher of the Year at East Ridge Elementary for the 2012-2013 school year. Additionally, he was given the honor of Elementary Teacher of the Year for Sweetwater ISD (Independent School District).
He teaches third grade and has been teaching at Sweetwater ISD for his entire teaching career--the last four years. Bennett attended Angelo State University and Howard College, in which he earned his Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Child Development and Learning.
He is a member of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, along with Kappa Delta Pi. Bennett also serves as the pastor of a church and president of the church board.
In addition, he is involved with the Saturday Food Ministry and works in the Emergency Food Bank at his church. He has served as a board member of Assist Our Community and has been involved with the Little League Baseball as well.
Bennett looked back on his background to discover the reason why he teaches--in which there are several reasons, as he admitted that he "didn't quite understand the importance of education" and "was unmotivated in school". Since he didn't like school, he didn't think there was a reason to try to do the best he could.
But once he got into high school, Bennett said that God put a coach in his life that truly cared for him, which made him change his mindset.
"I say God sent him because he changed my life forever," remembered Bennett. "His actions showed his deep commitment, not only to my education, but my future."
That coach's love and motivation is what Bennett says led him to where he is today. And in those moments where he wanted to give up, he said he would remember the investment his coach made in him.
Another reason Bennett teaches is that he wants to "pay it forward" by showing his students that he cares about both educational and life successes for his students. Each morning, Bennett says that he has a mission for his students to be successful in every aspect of life.
"It makes teaching 'worth it' when you can impact the life of a child that may not be motivated to succeed because they didn't know success was a choice," said Bennett.
He added that many students are just hoping that anyone cares enough for them to make an investment in their lives. And once that student comprehends that a teacher cares for them, they will take an investment in their own lives.
"The key to educating unmotivated students isn't a big secret," Bennett stated. "[It's] simply making it your mission to show them that someone in this world truly cares about them."
Furthermore, he noted that for students to be reached, they must be considered individuals, as no two students are alike.
"Students cannot be put in a 'class' and treated all the same," explained Bennett. "Students need and want a 'personal' not 'corporate' commitment from you."
When learning about an individual child, Bennett said that a teacher has to learn what they like and don't like in order to discover when the student is having a good or bad day. At times, he will have motivational meetings with his students, which helps him learn about them--an activity he says that his students love.
Bennett noted, "Sometimes I'm the only one in their life that takes time to have a conversation with them. It is much easier to discipline a student that knows you care about them."
So as he ponders the reasons why he teaches, his teaching philosophy and the attributes of an outstanding teacher, Bennett says that it all goes back to the example of his high school coach/teacher who made a difference in his own life.
"Every day I come to work to try to instill 'self worth' and 'self motivation' in my students," he said, "by showing them what 'could be' not just 'what is'."
He understands the importance of the teaching curriculum, but Bennett believes that the whole child should be taught beyond the content.
"I want to be remembered less for great strategies and more for showing each student a different path in life that they can take. If I can have the same positive impact on even one student, then I can lay my head down at night and feel 'successful'."