Teacher of the Year spotlight of the week
The annual Wilson County Teacher of the Year program recently announced the nominees for its 19th year, in which we will spotlight different teachers each week for the 2016-2017 year until the Annual Teacher of the Year Banquet.
Many across Wilson county were selected as nominees for “Teacher of the Year” at their specific school locations, but we would like to honor all teachers in the Mt. Juliet community that were chosen for this special spotlight of recognition.
This week’s featured teacher is Jon Willis with Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. He teaches math and personal finance for tenth graders, eleventh graders and seniors at MJCA.
Willis received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oregon and his Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Wyoming. He earned his Master’s degree with a math emphasis from the University of Wyoming.
Journalism and broadcasting was his first college major and he dreamed of being a sports commentator with ESPN. He also lived in Germany for four years and played professional basketball. In Germany, he started coaching a youth basketball team and at that point in his life he knew he wanted to work with children.
After a few years of teaching in Wyoming, he took a job with Dell and moved to Tennessee in 2002. Willis and his family made their home in Mt. Juliet. In 2006, Willis opened Mathnasium and for eight years, he worked with students to strengthen their math skills.
Willis has ten years teaching experience and has been at MJCA for seven years.
When asked why he entered the teaching profession, Willis said “I feel that is what God made me for. As Mark Twain once said, there are two important days in one’s life- the day you are born and the day you figure out what you are doing in life. The corporate world was not for me.”
Willis’s favorite thing about teaching is the interaction with the students. He feels when you get to know the students outside of school at special events and ball games, then it is much easier to work with them in the classroom. He wants to be more than a disseminator of information. He is known for his “Fry Day” when he does French frIes for the kids and he also sings the lunch menu from time to time.
The only change that Willis would suggest for the education system is to have less time spent on paperwork and more time with students.
“There are two people who influenced my teaching style. My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Skogg, turned me onto math. I remember how he had all our names listed on the board and we could earn a golf tee for each additional lesson we did in math. When we had completed twenty-five lessons, we received a gold tee. I was very competitive and this turned me onto math. Bro. Robert in High School taught calculus and he showed me what it means to be a teacher. Even after ballgames, he would open the computer lab for the students to work on calculus. I would go there instead of the pizza parlor.”
Last year there was special event that happened at MJCA and at Steak & Shake because of Willis’s finance class. The class learned about saving and put the skill into practice. The class started saving nickels and quarters until they had saved $2,000.00 and they presented this money to Martha, their server, at Steak & Shake. “In our class, the students learned to be generous and that you can’t be generous if you are in debt. This was on the job learning,” said Willis.
“I really love being at MJCA because I can talk about the Lord here and we are able to pray and share our faith,” stated Willis.
Willis said,” I am honored to be recognized by my peers for doing a good job. It is nice that they recognize that I am trying and that I put my heart into it. There are so many good teachers at MJCA.”
The overall Wilson County teacher will be named at the Teacher Banquet at Baird Chapel on the Cumberland University campus April 7.