Teaching is a calling, and the Troup County School System Teacher of the Year said she heeds that call because of her love of children, and any educator that doesn’t feel that way should stay at home.
Nichelle Wimbush, a Troup High School biology teacher, said despite hard times and struggle, her love of her students and call to educate is top priority.
“I absolutely, positively love what I do, because I love kids,” Wimbush said. “And if I can’t do anything else, and if you don’t want to pay me a million dollars, that’s OK. I honestly, genuinely love my kids. And for anyone that wants to be an educator, if you can’t do it for the kids, just stay at home.”
Wimbush was named as the system’s Teacher of the Year during a reception Wednesday recognizing the Teachers of the Year chosen for each school. Board of Education Chairman Sheila Rowe said all the chosen teachers, two for each middle and high school and one for each elementary school, represented a combined 333 years in education.
Wimbush was one of three finalists for the spot with elementary Teacher of the Year Charles Freeman, a fifth grade science, social studies, reading and math connections teacher at Callaway Elementary School; and middle school Teacher of the Year Terri Herndon, an eighth grade English/language arts teacher at Callaway Middle School.
Troup High School principal Chip Medders said that Wimbush “first and foremost loves kids.” He said it didn’t matter what kind of child, Wimbush loves all her students and expects the best out of everyone.
He said Wimbush is one of the most detailed people who keeps up with everything. However in his search for a funny anecdote to share with the group for Wednesday’s event, he discovered one flaw.
“There is one thing that she cannot keep up with,” Medders said. “Mrs. Wimbush is going to lose her keys – every day.”
He also recounted when one of the first snow days hit, it started sleeting before classes were officially let out, and Wimbush told Medders she needed to leave because she lived 30 minutes away. He said he’d let her know when it was time to go home.
She retorted that if she ran off the road and died, he’d feel bad. He jokingly told her if the weather got that bad, she should pull over and walk home, only to receive a glare in return.
“Then she went into that Teacher of the Year look … and for a brief moment she changed our relationship where I felt like I was one of those kids,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “That look of, ‘You know that’s not the correct answer. You know I have higher expectations of you right now than what you’re giving me, and you’re going to give me the correct answer, or I am going to stand here and stare you down until you give me the correct answer.’”
Medders caved and let Wimbush leave, and said she is now the only person to get a text directly from the principal when classes are canceled for snow.
Returning to his praise of her performance, Medders said the school is blessed to have Wimbush.
“We are blessed to have someone like Mrs. Wimbush teaching our students biology,” he said. “The highest compliment that I can pay you – I have a third grade son sitting there, and I really, really hope and I pray that you are his biology teacher one day.”
After the announcement, Wimbush thanked her education partner, Tabitha Stephens and mentor, Dr. Ezzard Carter, for their support of her over the last five years at Troup High School. She said all the teachers are overworked and at THS teachers work very hard, but the recognition for Teacher of the Year reinforces that drive that they are doing it all for the children. She also was honored to represent the school and her home county as Teacher of the Year.
“Education and being a teacher is not a job, it’s not something you choose because of the pay raise … it’s a calling,” Wimbush said. “And my dad always said something to me, he said, ‘Somebody’s got to teach the kids, so why isn’t it you.’ This is a gift.”