Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series on North Okaloosa County Teachers of the Year.
CRESTVIEW — Jackson Harrison, 10, has been mapping his future beyond fourth grade. Thanks to his Walker Elementary School teacher, Kim Medlock, he's pretty sure he's got a plan.
"I want to get a college scholarship to (University of) Tennessee and then go to the NFL," Jackson said. "Sports just runs in our family's blood."
Jacksonknows he'll need good grades to complement his sports prowess, and said Medlock's creative teaching methods excite him about learning.
Under her guidance, for example, he created the Fruit Ninja for science class. It's his favorite class. Classmates had to detect whether an organic material was a fruit using just smell. Vinegar, soil and dryer sheets were among the non-fruit elements.
"It's fun doing the experiments," Jackson said. "We had leftover fruit and Mrs. Medlock let us eat it."
The hardest part of teaching — meeting each child's individual academic and social needs — is also the most rewarding, Medlock said.
"They come in on different academic levels," she said. "There's no teaching the same way to all of them. Each child has different needs: some social, some academic."
The reward comes "when the child has that light bulb moment; when a child has transferred that information they've learned to something new. That's the moment."
Medlock has taught for nine years, including a two-year stint as a substitute covering a variety of grade levels and subjects. The Cincinnati native had learned about teaching opportunities here while visiting a friend one summer. She subsequently met former Walker principal Jeanine Williams.
"She asked me to interview and I ended up moving my whole family down here," Medlock said. "She did a pretty persuasive job."
Fourth grade has been "a good match" for her, she said.
"I love everything about my job," Medlock said.
"She's a good teacher all around," Jackson said. "She rewards us if we do well."
Medlock advises new teachers to ask questions of their experienced peers.
"Don't wait until it's too late," she said. "Find a mentor in your grade level and ask lots of questions."
Medlock said she was "very humbled" to discover she had been selected by her peers as Walker's Teacher of the Year.
"There are some teachers on this staff that I look up to tremendously, and to think they think highly of me is really touching," she said.
"It's also a sense of validation when you work so hard," she said. "You can be a good wife and a good mother but when you're recognized by your peers, it's a really good feeling."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.