On rainy days when students are stuck inside for recess, Eric Overcash leads his fourth grade class in learning and playing chess. A decade ago, there was one student who truly looked forward to these dreary days. George* would spend hours researching new strategies so that he could tell his teacher “checkmate.”
One very special day, he did. This student’s mother knew that was an important moment for him. So 10 years later when she was sending her son off to bootcamp to become a nurse in the Army, she wanted to gather words of encouragement from former teachers who had an impact on his life. She reached out to Eric to ask him to write a note that would give her son the boost he needed to start his career.
“It is incredible to be a part of our students’ journeys,” says Eric. “My most special moments are when I hear that they made it, that a student has gone on to be successful, and I know I was a little piece of that.”
Eric has been an elementary school teacher at Rowan-Salisbury Schools (RSS) for 17 years—his whole teaching career. Not only that, he also attended RSS schools from kindergarten to graduating high school as a student. RSS is his home.
“I switched my career from law enforcement to teaching in order to make a difference in young people’s lives,” says Eric. “Elementary school was such a magical time, and I wanted to be part of that. After going back to school, I was hired at Faith Elementary, and I haven’t looked back. Teaching is my calling.”
This next year, Eric is joining the Shive Elementary staff and is bringing his teaching method with him.
“I use a lot of data to learn kids’ strengths. The ones who I know understand the material get further challenges. And, I go back over the content with the students who need more time,” Eric says.
And, every student in his classroom feels both challenged and supported.
“In fourth grade, they are ready to work through problems, learn critical thinking and support their ideas with evidence,” says Eric. “When I asked my students at the end of the year to write what they enjoyed about the year, an overwhelming number said that they loved the challenges.”
*Student’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.