Photo by Vickers Photography
Mustang Middle School named Nick Hendricks, eighth grade history teacher, as the MMS 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year. It’s his third year with Mustang Public Schools.
Hendricks knew when he was in high school that he should be a teacher. He wanted to do something with his life that would leave a mark, something that would make his corner of the world a better place.
But after watching his parents work to pay the bills, Hendricks decided on a career in the medical field.
“Thats where the money was. As a high school kid, that seemed like the best plan going forward,” he said. “Yet, as I went to college and started that path, I didn’t like it. I went for a tour of some medical facilities and nothing excited me.”
He changed to business, got a degree, but didn’t like that either. Other careers could have provided him with more money with less stress and less work, but he returned to the path that he believed would be the most fulfilling. For seven years, he’s been a middle school teacher.
“I’ve taught sixth- through eighth-grade, and there’s something special about eighth graders,” he said. “They’re still interested in learning, and basically, they are the top dogs at middle school. Many days they’re a confused mess, but more often than not, they’re thoughtful, dedicated, and if you’ve developed good relationships with them, they’ll hear you out. That’s key in teaching history, and I try hard to make it relatable and fun for them.”
He remembers one student from two years ago who transferred between middle schools. She was extremely shy with no real friends. He uses pieces from Hamilton: An American Musical as a teaching tool in class for that period of history. As the semester went on, she began to sing with the soundtrack.
“By the end of the semester when we finished listening, she became so much more outgoing and friendlier with other students,” he said. “She told her mom that’s what she wanted to do with her life - musicals. She’s at the high school now pursing that dream.”
Hendricks enjoys building relationships with the students and helping them relate to history.
“I want them to understand it’s not just old, dead people, but actual people who lived and had thoughts and beliefs - people who got us where we are today,” he said. “I also enjoy building relationships with all students, especially those who aren’t quite sure about you but by May, you are their favorite teacher.”
He admits, teaching can be overwhelming. While many teachers choose greener monetary pastures, Hendricks sticks with the kids.
“It is never not challenging,” he said. “But, when I step in that classroom every day and look at those kids, I think about who would teach them if I weren’t there? Aren’t these kids worth it? My answer is always “yes,” and that’s why I want to go back every day, every month, every year.”