Educator of the Week: James Hall | Margaret B. Pollard Middle School

Posted 3/20/20

Grades/subjects you teach: 8th-grade math and science; boys’ and girls’ soccer coach

E-mail address:

Date, place of birth: May 15, 1970, in Huntingdon, …

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Educator of the Week: James Hall | Margaret B. Pollard Middle School

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Grades/subjects you teach: 8th-grade math and science; boys’ and girls’ soccer coach

E-mail address:

Date, place of birth: May 15, 1970, in Huntingdon, Tennessee

Education: Northern Durham High School (graduated 1988), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, bachelor’s degree in education (graduated 2006)

Brief work history: 2006-2010 — Perry W. Harrison Elementary School, 2010-Present — Margaret B. Pollard Middle School

Honors/awards: 2019-20 Margaret B. Pollard Middle School Teacher of the Year

Hobbies/interests outside of educating: soccer, reading, movies, hiking, handyman stuff

Family: wife, Kirsten; son, James, 21; daughter, Regan, 16

What led you to a career in education?: My grandmother taught 4th grade for 40 years and was a huge influence on my life.

Who were your favorite teachers as you went through school, and what did you learn from them?: World history teacher Dr. John Martin consistently challenged his students to make them defend ideas and opinions. Physics teacher Dr. Richard Superfine made science fun and engaging.

Has becoming an educator been all you expected it would be?: Yes, it is always exciting. There is never a dull day.

How has education changed since you were a student?: “Back in my day” instruction was mostly teacher-led, with lectures and note taking. Today it is much more student-centered and engaging.

What “makes your day” as an educator?: When you see the “light bulb” go off when a student “gets” a concept.

What’s working in schools today?: Student-centered instruction

What’s not working?: “Lawnmower parents” who go beyond simply advocating for their children, and do not allow them to struggle and overcome adversity.

What’s your favorite memory of your first year in education?: The relationships formed with those students (some of which have children of their own now).

How would your “educator” persona handle you as a student?: Honestly, I flew “under the radar” as a student. I think I would have sought to build more of a rapport with my younger self as a student.

Best piece of advice for other educators?: No matter how challenging your day is or how a student is behaving, remember that you are the adult in the situation, and act accordingly. We are human and can get emotional like anyone else, but try not to let a child, who often has issues you don’t know about, affect your state of mind.

For students?: Realize that teachers are there to help you, and take advantage of that opportunity.

For parents?: Allow your children to struggle, and even sometimes fail, so that they learn to overcome adversity.

What about your job would most surprise your friends who are not educators?: There is a myth that we leave at 3:30 p.m. every day and get summers off. We come in early, stay late, work at home and spend part of our summer in professional development, as well as many of us working second jobs.

If you could somehow magically instill one truth into the heads of your students, what would it be?: You get out of school what you put into it, and you can never get these years back.

When you think about today’s kids, you: Laugh.

If one of your students was asked for a one-word description of you by a student who hadn’t had you as an educator, what would that one word be?: Probably “funny”

Favorite movie about school or education: “Lean on Me”

How would you summarize your philosophy as an educator?: Put the student at the center of everything you do.

What five things must every educator know?: 1. Always put the student’s needs first; 2. Every student has a story. You may not know it.; 3. It’s OK to not know the answer to every question. Students will trust you because you are honest with them, not because you know everything.; 4. Take care of yourself. You’re no good to anyone if you’re sick and exhausted.; 5. Be consistent with classroom management.

What’s special about your education space at your school?: I make my classroom a safe place for every student, free from bullying and judgment. Every student is respected, and every question is answered, even if the answer is, “I don’t know.”

What’s special about your school?: We have wonderful support from the administration, the community and our peers.

Most unusual question you’ve ever gotten from a student?: “If a gorilla and a duck met on a bridge and had a baby, would it be a gorilla-duck?”


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