OAK GROVE HEIGHTS, AR (KAIT) – April's Teacher of the Month could be considered a rookie in the teaching profession when compared to other nominees for Teacher of the Year, but his skills have taken him to the top. Mr. Jason Inman, a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a degree in architecture, taught at Marked Tree Middle School for one year before moving to Oak Grove Middle School in the Paragould School District two years ago.
"This is the sweetest icing on a cake that you could ever get," said Inman.
During an interview with Region 8 News Monday, Inman said his experience in the real world led him to become a teacher.
"Teaching is a tough gig, and there are a lot of hard working teachers out there who really care. If I'm quote, better than the average, that, to me, is a tremendous accomplishment. I don't know that I am, but I love doing it," said Inman.
After college, Inman went to work for a non-profit. He then went to work for four years in the construction industry in Jonesboro before he made a major life decision.
"Anyone who finishes college and goes to get a job, you've got to be dedicated. In this job, you're dealing with people's children. Not widgets, not bicycles, not small engines, those are all… There's a lot of important jobs, but I'm dealing with people's most valuable possession. Period, and if I screw up, I just don't screw up a widget, I screw up, I hurt a kid's feelings or I make a parent upset or I teach them the wrong thing or the wrong way," said Inman.
Inman got his first teaching job after he finished a non-traditional teaching program in Arkansas.
"It's about nine hours of credit, and then you get to start the program and you go in the summers. I had to quit my job that I had without having a teaching job in order to take three or four weeks of summer classes every day," said Inman, who decided to become a teacher after he interacted with kids at Sunday School and after he coached a kid's soccer team.
"The first year, I had all desks and it was miserable. They were miserable. They're sitting in those hard seats. They get fidgety. We've got desks for those kids who like desks. The goal is for them to be in a place where they are ready to work on their own learning," said Inman.
Inman's class now consists of rugs, futons, chairs and traditional desks. He said there's a reason for the room's uniqueness.
"I'm trying to create an environment that they might see in 10th grade, 12th grade, college and recognize it and say, this is what we did in 5th grade. It's just a more intense version," said Inman.
"We concentrate on research, teamwork, presentation and completing a project, so all the moving parts. (We're) not leaving something out. (We're) having it complete," said Inman. "They cannot fail to the point where we give up. (It's) never going to happen. (I'm) not going to give up on them, and the only thing they can fail at is how hard they try."
Inman said he would almost be a teacher for free. He said there's rarely a day he misses without a good reason.
"My goal is to be the best facilitator, instructor, teacher I can be. Period, not because glory for me and accolades, but because if I'm the best teacher I can be, they're the best students they can be. The goal is that when they leave, they can do things. In my case, what I want them to be able to do is learn on their own, to be lifelong learners, to be able to teach themselves," said Inman.
Inman said he's honored to be April's Teacher of the Month, and he gave a lot of credit to his students and fellow instructors.
"You fantasize about that (being honored) and you'd be a liar if you say you didn't," said Inman. "It's not why you get in the job, but to have someone give you that affirmation, sure."