Miller, Holmes, Bellish nominated for Teacher of the Year

December 26, 2019


Charlotte Vanyo

Coppell High School Teacher of the Year nominees enjoy lunch with CHS Principal Laura Springer on Tuesday. IB Theory of Knowledge and History of Americas teacher Michael Brock was announced as Teacher of the Year on Dec. 4.

Coppell High School mathematics teacher Michelle Bellish, CHS AP English teacher Alexander Holmes, International Baccalaureate (IB) History teacher and IB coordinator Michael Brock and CHS band director Gerry Miller were recently nominated for CHS’s Teacher of the Year. Brock was announced as the winner on Dec. 4. 

Bellish nominated for Teacher of the Year through strong relationships

Coppell High School mathematics teacher Michelle Bellish was recently nominated as Teacher of the Year for the 2019-20 school year, largely because of her care for kids and dedication to her craft. 

What was your reaction to being nominated?

I was surprised and shocked. It was exciting, though. I found out in our faculty meeting when [CHS principal] Laura Springer announced it. 

How long have you been teaching?

This is my 31st year.

What do you love about teaching?

I love having students: I love that my group of kids changes every year. I like the interactions. I like to see kids who feel like they don’t know math, and all of a sudden one day they feel more happy and confident with their results. 

What are your strengths as a teacher?

Building relationships is my No. 1. Secondly, I’m really good at scaffolding; I’m really good at taking each individual skill needed and teaching them in small steps.

What got you into teaching?

In college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I decided to teach, and math was very easy for me, so it all folded together. In my early years, when I taught junior high at first, I was teaching math and science.

What makes someone a great teacher?

Someone who works hard, cares about kids, puts the students ahead of the curriculum. And realize that not everyone in your class is happy to be there.

What do you want students to take away from having you as a teacher?

Hard work, perseverance. I want them to know that when they hit a roadblock, they should keep working toward their goals. 

Where did you work before Coppell High School?

I started in Houston, we raised our family in Houston. My first jobs were all in the Houston area. We moved to Chicago in 2007, and then we came back here. My parents live here in Dallas. I got a job in Coppell, and this is my seventh year here. 

Follow Pramika (@pramika_kadari) and @CHScampusnews on Twitter.

Miller teaches with joy, receives teacher of the year nomination

Coppell High School band director Gerry Miller leads a nationally-recognized band program by pushing students to reach their limits and to contribute to the band program as a whole. Miller is one of four Coppell High School 2019-20 Teacher of the Year nominees. 

What made you begin to teach band?

I didn’t start as a music education major; in college I was actually a jazz major, and I thought I would spend my life playing jazz. I grew up in New Orleans, and that seemed like a great fit for me. But as I started college [Loyola University] – I was just a few days into classes – [I realized] that I was really being called to be a teacher. My mom’s a teacher so I kind of knew what that life was like as a teacher, and it just felt like the right fit. As soon as I started taking classes, I knew it was absolutely the right thing.

What is your favorite part of teaching band?

My favorite part would be the relevance of what we do to their real lives. Ninety percent of our students will go on and hopefully be great consumers and appreciate music, and I love the relevance we’re able to bring to their lives. There’ll be 10% of them who will go on and be great performers, and it’s wonderful to work with that level of students, but so much of it is about creating a rigorous environment for them. It’s about creating something that’s relevant to them, and it’s about developing strong relationships, you know. Those three R’s – rigor, relevance and relationships – those absolutely are my teaching philosophy. Our the whole band philosophy depends on how we work with students.

What do you hope you instill in students?

I want them to learn the challenges of working as part of so much of their lives. It’s not going to be a one-person environment when they go on to work, and so often they’re going to have to work with a team of four or five people, and they’re going to learn that some people have different tendencies, you know, whether it be some people are stronger morning people and other people are evening people. There are going to be, you know, people who are very creative but not very organized and vice versa. We want our students to learn their contribution matters tremendously, [for] the overall quality of what we’re building.

What is different about being a band director?

The most different thing for me as a band director is that I get to do my curriculum. Every single day, every single week, every single year, I never have to repeat anything. My mom taught English for 40 years, the middle school level [Griffin Middle School in Frisco ISD], and she would tell you that in 40 years she probably went through seven or eight different versions of the curriculum for middle school. Every year is different for me as we plan different pieces of literature. We approach them through different ways. Our ensemble collaboratively has strengths and weaknesses in different areas. As students graduate students come in. We’re very fortunate in that we don’t ever have to repeat on ourselves very much. We’re not really beholden to a curriculum. This year, we have some benchmarks along the way. But we’re not tied so tightly to a timeline that we can vary things up just a little bit to keep it fresh for our students but also to keep it rigorous.

How did you feel when you won the teacher of the year?

I was really honored. You know, I don’t think there’s anyone in teaching who does this for the acknowledgments, but it’s nice when someone takes notice of what you’re doing. For me, the reward is in the work. Some people in the community will tell you that the reward is in the concert or theplacement in the rankings, and I will tell you that my favorite days are really grinding rehearsal days, where we’re just getting better and better and working. Having some type of external acknowledgment of what we’re doing as a band staff – I mean I don’t think they were just giving the nomination just for me, but you know for all the guys that I teach with. It’s a real honor for us to be seen that way because we know that we don’t exactly fit into the mold of, you know, a teacher of the year- so for somebody to see that out of the box and realize that was so important.

What is hard about teaching band?

I don’t think anything is – it’s an absolute joy. I mean, I’ll be the first to say that I think you have to love and do. In general, I think teaching is the greatest profession, because I think you have to be called to do it but I think once you’re called to do it, you love it so much, it never feels like work. I don’t tell my wife I’m going to work as I leave the house every day, I say I’m going to school because it’s like I’m always learning. I don’t really have a negative to the job.

Follow Anjali(@anjalikrishna_) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.

Holmes fosters excitement while earning Teacher of the Year nomination

With a room full of comics, graphic novels, movie posters and more, Coppell High School AP English teacher Alexander Holmes’s room makes his passion for storytelling clear. After just five years of teaching, Holmes was nominated as the CHS Teacher of the Year this year. 

What were you thinking when you found out you were nominated?

I was excited, and I was nervous. Because I knew the second I was nominated, I would have to stand in front of a bunch of people. While I’m happy to stand in front of 30 or 50 students at a time, standing in front of somewhere around 200 of my colleagues and peers – that’s pretty intimidating. But after I got over the initial anxiety, it’s been something wonderful. I feel extremely humbled by this experience of being able to stand up next to the other nominees; they’re all wonderful amazing teachers who I look up to, and I’m so happy to have stood alongside them. 

What do you love about teaching?

I love that I am effectively – partially – paid to build relationships. To be able to come into a building and interact with 150 or so people every day, and to be able to not only enhance their understanding of the world but also understand them as people and to see them grow, is an extremely rewarding part of my career. Another part of it is I’m a nerd, and I get to nerd out about literature and comics and movies with [my students] pretty much every day. So the fact that I see something that is one of the most beautiful things on our planet – people growing into better people – on top of things I already love because of my own interests – I feel like teaching is a really excellent career choice for me.

What are your strengths as a teacher?

My strengths as a teacher are, No. 1, that I have an overwhelming amount of passion inside of me. If it’s about literature and [Wiliam] Shakespeare’s work, or if it’s about connecting to music or anything, I always try to care as much as I possibly can about anything that interests me. That’s why [my students] will sometimes see me going down a tunnel, I just get sucked into something, and I have to say, “guys, you have to stop me.” But that passion, drive and interest only fosters further passion, drive and interest.

Did you always see yourself teaching?

No. Growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I flip-flopped between video game designer, performance violinist and all sorts of other things along the way too. But the real push I got for being a teacher was from two people primarily. No. 1, my father. I had a mister-mom growing up, and having a mister-mom makes you a different sort of son. He gave me the idea that a man – not a macho man, but a true man – has the ability to foster relationships with the youth and care for others. So I always tell people, I knew I wanted to be a dad before I wanted to be a teacher. Besides my father, the other person – or people – would be all the amazing teachers I’ve had along the way. I had a lot of people show me how powerful teaching can be, and that only made it more inviting.

Do you have favorite books and/or movies that you teach?

My favorite book that I’ve taught would definitely be The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, just because it’s such a weird and awkward-to-read story; it’s really clunky if you don’t know what it is. But to be able to process stream of consciousness, which is one of the hardest forms of narrative, and to be able to understand what’s going on in someone’s mind – the human mind – is really, really fun and really, really interesting. If I had to pick a movie – honestly, I had a really fun time teaching Lord of the Rings this year, and I definitely would love to do a whole unit or class over Lord of the Rings too. 

Follow Pramika (@pramika_kadari) and @CHScampusnews on Twitter.

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