ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) – Every teacher has a memorable story to tell about their students. Ron Clark's stories had hundreds of teachers rolling with laughter Monday morning.
Clark is well-known for going into some of the toughest classrooms in the country, like rural North Carolina and Harlem, New York, and turning troubled students into respectful achievers. His dramatic life story became a television movie and his innovative teaching style was featured in two of his books.
On Monday, Clark shared his 55 rules for classroom success to motivate Jackson County teachers as they gear up for the new school year.
"It's always great to go into the classroom with a fresh, uplifting heart for our kids and he did a great job of getting to where the passion is," said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Amacker.
"It's amazing!" said Vancleave Lower Elementary teacher Carolyn Whitehead. "As teachers, that is what we have to do. We have to be creative. We have to find their minds. We have to open their minds and we have to build on entertaining kids and that is exactly what he does."
As he darted from one side of the gym to the other, Clark encouraged teachers to inject that same kind of energy into their classrooms. He also told them it's okay to be different.
St. Martin North Elementary teacher Rocky Greathouse was especially moved by his message. She broke into tears as she chatted with him during a book signing.
"I told him that for years, I've been that crazy teacher. Not jumping on tables, but I've been the flake. I told him you validated it. I don't feel so crazy anymore," said Greathouse.
"I'm hoping with his success, he will touch more lives that touch so many lives and pull us all together in one united front. Because sometimes, we are the only people that truly love these kids," she added.
"Today was awesome!" said Clark. "Meeting these wonderful teachers here and seeing the passion they have for education in their eyes. I love it. The teachers really care about the students in this area. I know they're going to go into the classrooms this year to dream big and full of passion to inspire the kids to reach the best they can ever reach."
"You know everybody was mesmerized," said Whitehead. "To have somebody come in and fire us up and get that going and the kids coming in on Thursday. I'm fired up. I'm ready."
Clark received the Disney Teacher of the Year award in 2001 and has been on a number of national programs. Royalties from his books were used to open the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. Some local teachers plan to tour the school to see his innovative teaching techniques at work.