The Lebanon Democrat is in the process of running question-and-answer profiles of the Wilson County educators who have been selected as the teacher of the year in their respective schools.

Those individuals, from both the Wilson County School System and the Lebanon Special School District, are in contention for the Wilson County Teacher of the Year Award, which will be announced later this spring.

We continue the series of profiles with a glance at E.J. Wood, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instructor at Green Hill High School …

Name … E.J. Wood

School … Green Hill High School

Age … 39

What grade/subject do you teach? Ninth through 12th-grade STEM

How long have you been in education? 17 years

How many years have you taught at your current school? Two years, since its opening in 2020 (15 total in Wilson County)

What other schools have you taught at prior to your current school? Nicholas Hobbs Academy in Bartlett for two years, Watertown Elementary for two years, Watertown High School for 10 years and Barry Tatum Academy for two years

What is something unique about you — whether it’s a hobby, skill or past accomplishment — that most people likely wouldn’t be aware of? I hope to travel to all 50 states by my 50th birthday with the love of my life (my wife).

What do you enjoy doing in your free time (hobbies, etc.)? It’s traveling and watching and playing all sports. My favorite is whichever is in season.

Is there anything unique about your teaching situation that you’d like to detail? I am also the athletic director for Green Hill High School.

How would you describe your teaching style? I want my students to know that I truly care about them as a person and hope to empower the impact they will have on society.

Could you share a couple of strategies for how that you keep students engaged and motivated? I try to keep my students guessing about what is going to happen next. Routine many times breeds complacency, and I never want my classes to be bored of education. Some would say I interject humor quite often. I believe it is simple honesty … either way, a refined skill over years in the classroom. It all starts with students knowing that you care.

Have you ever encountered a challenge in teaching that required you to rethink your teaching methods and/or approach? Classroom management is paramount in the learning process. When classes (as recent as last semester) come along that exhaust all your tricks of the trade, you must find what works. It is different with every grouping of students. I learned in my first placement working with behaviorally and emotionally-challenged students that if you can reach the leader of the group, the others will follow. Reaching that student could look like tough love or second chances (or fourth chances), but it always gets back to them knowing you truly care about them.

What is different, unique and/or enjoyable about the school that you are currently teaching at? I interviewed at Green Hill for the chance to build something literally from the ground up. We have gotten to set the standards, which what I call the Green Hill way. We have not done everything perfect, but I hope to be a catalyst on the hill for a reputation our county can be proud of in the classrooms, as well as on the fields of competition.

Why did you choose teaching as a career path? I come from a long line of educators. My father is retired after 40-plus years teaching. Upon my dad’s request, I explored other majors beginning in college. When the program I was in had accreditation issues, my options became to change majors or transfer. Since I was on an athletic scholarship, I decided to stay and was able to retool my path to pick up a teaching certification and essentially two undergraduate degrees (one major and one minor). My fifth year, I was able to complete my coursework and stay on as a part of our football team as a student assistant as my eligibility had run out.

What is the most fulfilling part of teaching? It’s seeing a kid get it. Many times, that is years later when the wedding invitation comes in the mail with a personal note thanking you for all the things many years previous.

What is the most challenging part of teaching? Every career is challenging. Many slight teachers for the summers off, or the snow days. To me, the most challenging thing about being a teacher is the lack of respect that has seeped into our culture for the vast majority of us who truly want to see students succeed. Overall teaching is far more fulfilling than any of the issues/challenges we may face. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

How has your view of teaching changed since you first embarked on your teaching career? I started thinking every student (and athlete for that matter) should wind up in college and come back to tell me how easy their freshman-level science class was because I was such a good teacher. Those times have been rare. Trajectory is a word that has become prevalent in my teaching philosophy over the years. A wise man told me that not everyone is made for college. If I can alter the trajectory of a student regardless of their ability level or goals, I feel as though I have done my job.

How have you seen the profession change over the course of your career, and how do you see it continuing to evolve going forward? Data … I have a very analytical mind, and I love spreadsheets. Data analysis works and can give you the ability to improve on all levels, whether it be on standard-based materials or a stat line from a sport you are involved with. Data has become the buzz word of the day in education, when the past may have resembled more of a get-what-you-get mentality. The continual push toward data usage has also created an unhealthy part of our culture, wherein we lose the ability to truly affect kids in our rooms because of a test we must prepare for. Accountability is obviously needed. Principals and mentoring teachers should be empowered to help those that need help. A snapshot from one testing day doesn’t always show the true value added.

If there was any one variable that you could control or enhance to help with the educational process, what would that be and why? It’s kids who grow up as products of an environment that is not conducive to learning. Students today face issues they are not prepared to handle mentally or emotionally. I am an idealist at heart, and I realize most idealists come across as naive. That is not the case with me. I get that our world has changed over the last half century. Students today want discipline (in the form of consistency) in their lives, whether they realize it or not. Many do not get that consistency, and I believe it is the job of the village to come alongside our educators on the front lines and see to it that everyone has a chance to alter their trajectory.

Who is somebody who has been especially impactful in your teaching career, and why did he/she make such an impact on you? There are many. Gwin Wood, my dad, loved his kids like his own. Keeping my wife and daughters at the forefront of loving my kids is not easy, and I fail frequently. I am thankful for a wife who understands and forgives me when I lose sight.. Kristy Miller, my high-school science teacher, was tough … but she loved us. Teresa Rose, my high-school English teacher, was a master in her element. She knew when to talk and when to listen. Geneva Storey, my high-school Spanish teacher, cared for her students and believed in us to no end. Wayne Lohaus, my high-school baseball coach — put people in places to be successful. Jeff Luttrell, principal (at Watertown High School formerly), changed the trajectory of my career and taught me along the way how to take care of people.

Could you share what has been one of your most memorable moments in teaching? There are many … numerous grad invites, weddings attended, baby showers. It is always good to know you made a difference.

What is the most meaningful thing a student could say to you? Thank you for being there for me when I didn’t even want to be there for myself.

How would you ideally like to be characterized or remembered as a teacher? At the end of the day, I’d hope students would remember me as a teacher who treated them as my own, was tough but caring, knew when to talk and when to listen, believed in them, empowered them to make a difference, and changed the trajectory of their lives.

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