From statistics to the Olympics
Teacher of the Issue making a mark in all areas
February 10, 2022
Don Kemp is The Sidekick’s February Teacher of the Issue, selected by the newspaper staff. Kemp is in his 17th year at Coppell High School and teaches AP statistics.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
[At first] I wanted to be a banker. I got a financial degree [from the University of Texas at Arlington]. I was a financial analyst for two years and didn’t like it. I taught Sunday School at [Oakview Baptist church in Irving], and I realized ‘I don’t like what I’m doing.’ So, I went back to [UT Arlington] to get certified to teach.
Do you find statistics the best fit for you as a teacher?
To me, it’s the best class that anyone could take because it is the study of data. That’s what the world is today. I think it’s the future of everything. It is also the concrete rewards, because the [students] take an AP test. Then, I see a bunch of three, fours and fives on the AP test, and I feel good.
Do you have a favorite teaching memory?
I was teaching something [on] the board, and this kid was doing the same problem. But he did it a different way. And at first, I thought that’s wrong. Then I looked at it, and he did something that was right. From then on, I taught my method and his method. That taught me that everyone learns a little bit differently.
What do you think a student needs to be successful in your class?
Be willing to work. The math part is not very difficult. Our job is to interpret what the calculator says. Statistics is all based on calculus, so I tell my students that we let the calculus people do all the math stuff in the week, and we just make all the money by interpreting what they did.
What stands out about Coppell students?
Their plan is to go to college. I’ve been to other schools where students’ plan was to go work at a Six Flags restaurant. At Coppell, we have high expectations, and most of the time realistic expectations the students are pretty driven about learning to achieve them.
What is something your students don’t know about you?
The Olympics is the ultimate goal for anybody. I had an opportunity to go out to Georgia, because [Atlanta] had won the Olympic bid [in 1996], to go help run some of the facilities that the athletes were going to train out in. We transformed some of the tracks, high school tracks into training facilities for the athletes, and then I got to be there when they were training, and actually talk to the coaches and help them out. In turn, I got free tickets. I lived out there for five years.
What do you want your students to take away from you when they leave your classroom?
That I care about them. I care about their education and their future. I find [past students] on Facebook that are now doctors, and I get real proud of them. You always have dreams of [teaching] athletes, but I am just excited for the ones that are doctors, lawyers and businessmen. I’m proud that my former students are successful.
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