To kick off a successful school year, Dr. John Hodge, president and co-founder of the Urban Learning and Leadership Center, addressed Burrell School District faculty as the opening-of-the-year keynote speaker on August 23.
A professional speaker and expert in helping schools create and sustain academic excellence, Dr. Hodge shared a powerful personal story to demonstrate that teachers have the unique ability to meet students where they’re at and to instill a passion to succeed within them.
Dr. Hodge spoke about his success in life, his upbringing, his family experiences, and how all three of these factors blended together to form the person he is today. Growing up, Dr. Hodge vividly recalls watching his neighborhood drastically change from a bustling blue-collar area to one that went downhill very quickly with fall of the tobacco industry. Thousands of people who worked for the tobacco company were suddenly out of work, and the town quickly became a seedy, undesirable environment.
In particular, Dr. Hodge recounts his experience in school during this hardship. He and a group of eight close friends all received the same education, lived in the same community, and had similar backgrounds. Yet, four of those students went on to become a successful car salesman, a lawyer, a doctor, and a professional speaker. The other four wound up in jail or were hindered from becoming successful in other similar ways.
So what was the difference between the two groups of students? “He pinned it to the unrelenting focus and desire instilled in them by one very impactful teacher,” says Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matthew Conner.
This particular teacher would visit them on the weekends; personally make sure they came to school, even if that meant going to their house when they didn’t show up in the morning; and formed relationships with each of them.
The other four students in that group of friends, however, had a different teacher and an entirely different academic experience. Thus, Dr. Hodge boils his success down to this one difference, reflective of just how powerful teachers can be in the lives of students.
Following his keynote presentation, Dr. Hodge then lead a breakout session with staff to further emphasize the sheer impact that each and every teacher has on students. He asked faculty to consider what jobs are going to be available for our students in the future, and how to best prepare them with the necessary skill sets.
“Dr. Hodge is a great speaker,” says Conner. “The purpose of his presentation was to remind teachers why they are here and to remember that they are very impactful in students’ lives.”
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