SEVEN SPRINGS — Wes Boyd takes his magic marker-like stylus, taps a key on the whiteboard and every answer from his previous tutoring session disappears.
A second group enters.
Paper bags rattle as they’re flipped around or shuffled to the side in a box. Once they find that satisfying snack, each student grabs either a bottle of water or fruit juice.
Boyd passes out a worksheet to his seventh-graders as they drop their book bags onto the floor and settle into their desks.
While the crunch of chips fill the air, the students glance at the paper that has six problems.
A minute or two passes.
“What kind of problem is that first one?” Boyd asks.
He turns toward one student.
“Probability, right?” he asks.
The engaging and hands-on lesson embodies more than just steps and procedures. Boyd encourages the group to devise a solution in a less-than-textbook manner.
His unpredictable approach in a COVID-ravaged year led to unimaginable recognition for this science-turned-math teacher at Spring Creek Middle School. A father of five adopted children, Boyd was selected as the 2020-21 Beginning Teacher-of-the-Year for Wayne County Public Schools.
The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce presented Boyd with a gift certificate to a local restaurant and a candle from EcoRo Creations. Julie Beck, president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, awarded Boyd a glass plaque for his achievement.
Sitting in a desk with his oldest daughter, Ashley, by his side, Boyd reflected on the shocking, surprising moment that left him speechless.
Him, a finalist?
Then, a winner?
“You have that moment of ‘little old me?’” Boyd said. “I’m not a person who likes a lot of attention … not my personality. I don’t want it to be about me because it takes everybody working together. I don’t want to leave out other people who helped me accomplish the things I accomplished.”
Like most of his colleagues, Boyd redesigned his curriculum to serve both virtual and hybrid students.
For example, he held an impromptu baking lesson to help his class understand ratios. The students made cookie dough based on the number they planned to bake, and cooked them with the aid of the school’s child nutrition team.
Of course, they had a taste test.
“If they ate the cookie, I knew it was good,” Boyd laughed.
Outside the classroom, Boyd serves as treasurer for the school’s Parent Teacher Association. Through the PTA, he acquired headphones for 600-plus students to use during remote learning.
When school returned to full-time in-person instruction, he handed out water bottles to physical education students since the school’s water fountains are shut down during the pandemic.
Back to class.
A student kicks off her Crocs.
Her lips move as she silently reads the problem to herself.
After a short discussion about discounts and converting fractions into percentages, Boyd glances at the clock. More than half of the 30-minute, after-school session has expired.
“You guys are rock stars,” Boyd said as he taps the screen again and up pops a negative-positive relationship question. “We’ve got 10 minutes to go so we can knock it out.”
His creative demeanor and rapport with the class generates enthusiastic responses. They easily solve the last problem and Boyd asks the group how well they did.
Regardless of the answers and marks on their papers, his ingenious method is a connection of power that allows students to feel comfortable and wonder what awaits them the next day in class.