By STEVEN NALLEY
Before meeting Wade Williams, Jack Bryan wasn’t bad at math, but he didn’t enjoy it.
Bryan, now a senior at Starkville High School, first met Williams as a student in his trigonometry class. Since then, he said he has taken four math classes under Williams, and his ACT math score has risen from 27 to 34.
“(Williams has) renewed my interest in math,” Bryan said. “At one point (after taking his classes), I even toyed with majoring in math. He truly cares about the subject, and he takes time to explain it to every person ... and he cares about his students.”
Williams helped Bryan raise his overall ACT score to 33 and become SHS’s 2013 STAR Student, leading Bryan to select Williams as SHS’s 2013 STAR Teacher.
Bryan is an Eagle Scout who also runs cross-country and plays tennis for SHS, and he is active in the Starkville Mayor’s Youth Council. His Eagle Scout project, he said, was the construction of a second pavilion at the SHS tennis courts, for which he had to raise $8,000 and coordinate volunteers for a total of 400 man-hours over 13 months.
Bryan said he values the STAR Student award and his high ACT score as recognition for his hard work and as an opportunity to recognize the teacher who influenced him most. He said he places a premium on excellence, because excellence in high school translates to excellence in college, which translates to excellence in a career. However, he said he has not yet selected a career path or a college.
“I’m entering as (an) economics (major),” Bryan said. “I took economics last year in high school, and I’ve read a couple of books that revolve around economics. During a college visit, I sat in on an economics class, and I loved every minute of it. I want to explore it further.”
Williams said Bryan is a worthy STAR Student, and while Bryan may not have realized it when they first met, he is also an excellent mathematician.
“Jack has a really good ability to look at math problems in particular and see and understand what’s going on in the problems,” Williams said. “He has a conceptual knowledge of what’s happening and can find different ways to work a problem, and that takes special mathematical talent.”
The key to unlocking Bryan’s potential, and that of other students, is to challenge them, Williams said.
“With Jack, I could see he was talented, and he just needed a few little things to help the way he thought about math problems,” Williams said. “Just by giving him a few of those tools, he was able to make a large leap in his ACT score in particular.”
Williams is currently in his second full year at Starkville High School, but this is not his first honor as an SSD teacher. He taught at Henderson Intermediate School for one semester and was named New Teacher of the Year by the SSD before spending a full year at Armstrong Middle School. Because he had not spent a full year at Henderson, he said, he qualified for the New Teacher of the Year Award again — and won it again. Nevertheless, Williams remains humble.
“There are a lot of really great teachers here at SHS,” Williams said. “For Jack to choose me as a teacher who had an impact on his learning among all the great teachers at SHS is really an honor.”