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Ken Hutchins, Science Teacher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


The paper trembled in my hand as I read the name again. I'd heard about this crazy teacher: anti-social, hated children, and gave tests guaranteed to make your head explode. And I, a nervous little eighth-grader, had been assigned this man not only for science but also homeroom. I had no idea this teacher would become my favorite.

The title of Teen Ink's Educator of the Year undoubtedly belongs to Mr. Hutchins because he gives his students what they need to take with them in life – a new perspective. By the time most of us reach eighth grade, we think we know everything. Mr. Hutchins took care of this cockiness and brought our heads out of the clouds with his dry but unique sense of humor.

He kept us on our toes, to say the least. For example, for our first quiz he announced that we had exactly two minutes. Everyone became intently focused. My pencil scribbled rapidly, eager to meet the deadline. I was so absorbed in my work that I jumped in mid-sentence and my pencil engraved a startled line across my paper, just as my classmates' did. In the front of the classroom, Mr. Hutchins, wearing a mischievous grin, had pulled a long, metal pole out of who knows where and dropped it loudly on the tile floor. Needless to say, we took quizzes and tests differently after that: one eye on our paper, the other on the unpredictable Mr. Hutchins.

Mr. Hutchins' humor grew on us, as did his teaching style. He made us realize that what he was teaching wasn't just information we needed in order to pass eighth grade (and most likely forget when we got to high school), but it applied to real life. For example, when we learned about the quadrillion layers of the atmosphere (just kidding, it's just the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere), we watched reports and documentaries about atmospheric activity. Weathermen, who once rambled in front of maps of the U.S. with random arrows indicating low and high fronts, finally made sense to me!

It's one thing to know the material, and totally another to apply it to life, which is what Mr. Hutchins did – with commentary, of course. He taught us about global warming and applied it to Al Gore's documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” He made us question things and then apply what we knew, what he taught us, to determine whether something was true. This is why a year later I still remember all that Mr. Hutchins taught me.

Mr. Hutchins is a brilliant teacher who was determined to make us learn the information, not just regurgitate it. How many teachers give students a few facts about shadows and buildings (the same information Eratosthenes had when he concluded that the Earth was round) and then ask them to find the circumference of the Earth using that information?

When he assigned textbook reading for homework, he always told us to “read for comprehension.” The tests he gave – which did make heads explode – contained very thought-provoking questions that required actual thought, instead of just scribbling down answers we had memorized and would forget afterwards.

In my opinion, Mr. Hutchins deserves to be Teen Ink's Educator of the Year. Sure, he is a bit socially awkward. And, yes, he has a blank stare that can unnerve people. (It's not because he hates children; he returns respect only when students give it.) This intelligent man has been more than just an inspirational teacher. When I look at my class schedule, I wish his name was still printed there.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Nawesome16 said...
Jun. 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm
Mr. Hutchins was a memorable teacher. I was bored and searched him on google to try to find if he ever uploaded any of the videos to youtube, but your story was the first thing on the list. The metal pole startled everyone. He's so evil :)
 
mwaldrop said...
Jan. 31, 2011 at 8:21 am
I really like your true but real story. I can relate to it because my English teacher is the exact same way. I was terrified to have him at the beginning of the school year because everyone said he was such a hard teacher, but he was fun. Now that I have Mr. Adams I wouldn't wish to have any other English teacher. Out of all my teachers of this year, I learned the most from him. Like you said your science teacher made you guys use your own brains instead of him giving you all the answers for eve... (more »)
 
leeleewolf_is_a_duck said...
Jan. 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm
So, you don't know me, and I don't know you, but I know some of your friends (like Dana and Corinne and Zach (Smith)), and I never stop hearing about you. And I read this in the issue that came in the mail today. Dana should pass on my message sometime soon. Anyway, very good :D and congrats. 
 
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