John Stokes says the middle school level presents one of the most difficult times for students.
“The physical and mental changes that students go through during this time is drastic,” he said. “For some, it could make or break. My degree in middle school education ensured that I would have an impact.”
Stokes currently serves as EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology Inc.) facilitator for Hot Springs High School.
“EAST is unlike any other model in modern education,” he said. “It’s a project-based, service-learning oriented program that provides students with the high-end technology available in the most progressive fields in the world.”
EAST is a coordinated effort to provide today’s students with an educational atmosphere that allows them to gain insight into their own abilities to acquire and use information, solve problems and develop valuable experience.
Stokes said he wasn’t originally interested in middle-level education.
“I wanted to be a high school social studies teacher and football coach,” he said. “The late Dr. Fred Parker is the reason I sought a middle-level degree. His passion and guidance at Henderson allowed me to see my true calling.
“The rigor of the middle-level versus a specialty allowed for me to be successful in my role as an EAST facilitator.”
Stokes was recently recognized by the Hot Springs School District as Middle School Teacher of the Year. He was also the 2015 Air Force Chapter Teacher of the Year for Garland County.
Stokes said he has progressed his education through professional development and will begin studies for his Master’s in Educational Leadership at Henderson next spring with the ultimate goal of becoming a principal.
“I want to see the opportunities of a district from the administrative side,” he said.
Stokes said his role as an educator is an enjoyable and satisfying experience.
“The impact we make for our country is amazing. Every CEO, lawyer, doctor and other professionals started in a classroom,” he said. “The shaping of students is the single greatest thing that education allows us to do.
“Middle School education is the lynch pin between grammar school and higher ed. We middle-level education majors are the backbone of the system.”
Stokes said Henderson State’s middle school education program has all the components that educators need to be successful in the classroom.
He urges current students to “revel in your time at Henderson.”
“The friendships and connections you make here really do translate to the real world,” Stokes said. “You are the future. Parents entrust the welfare of their children to you.
“Remember, you are their teacher, not their buddy. Your job is to be the one person who will always be straight with them.”
Through the EAST program, Stokes provides unique opportunities for his students to learn and become involved in their communities.
“I have taken students to compete against industry leaders in Washington D.C. I watched with amazement as my students sat in a senator’s desk after being given a tour of the Capitol Building,” he said. “I have students who are changing biomedical science and solving flooding issues in downtown Hot Springs.
“The list of opportunities is too long to mention.”
• This alumni feature is part of an ongoing project featuring Henderson’s outstanding undergraduate and graduate academic programs.