They may not all grow up to pen the next great American novel, but after leaving Mark Pierce's class, many students will at least know how.
"I didn't really know how to read literature at a deeper level and Mr. Pierce is good at allowing us to see the deeper meanings that stories of literary merit show so we can actually see what they reveal about life," says Brooks Thomas.
With graduation the ultimate goal, Pierce makes it his mission to do whatever it takes to reach a student. He says the simple act of kindness goes a long way. "There is a struggle, there is a challenge at times, but respect the student, show kindness and the student is pretty much going to get on board with what you're doing."
Pierce wants his students to work hard for him, and for themselves. Along with words of encouragement, Pierce regularly asks his class to "wow" him, providing motivation to work doubly hard to achieve. "And I sense that from my students, and I appreciate that probably more than anything I see out of my students is their desire to want to work for me, not to displease me."
Pierce's influence extends beyond the classroom. He encourages benevolence by offering students extra credit when they donate canned goods to a local mission.
Years from now, Pierce wants to be that one teacher that students remember for the difference he made. Student Courtney Ray says "he's seriously changed my life, honestly, he's been the best teacher I've ever had. He's just very supportive and wants us to bring more of ourselves out, not just in the class but our whole lives."
We've profiled 30 great teachers from across the Tennessee Valley since September. Early next month, finalists will be announced for Teacher of the Year. We congratulate all of this school year's Golden Apple Award winners.