Top Teachers: Samuel Turner
Holman M.S., sixth-eighth grades
Growing up, Samuel Turner always assumed that he would follow the family military tradition and end up in a job in which he designed or built airplanes, tanks and helicopters, or perhaps joined the Military Corps of Engineers.
But a Saturday morning during his senior year of high school changed all that.
Spending time at the Nottoway County home of his English teacher, the late John B. Cyrus, completely changed his perspective, said Turner. It was Cyrus – along with other teachers and principals he admired – who gave him an appreciation of the opportunity teachers have to make a difference in young lives.
Looking back, Turner said, he always had people around him who provided advice and “taught me a different way to view things.”
His sister and brother both challenged and nurtured him, and he noted that both have had successful military careers, in addition to becoming teachers in their respective fields.
As a teacher of pre-engineering, technology, and 21st-century learning, Turner (who taught at Short Pump Middle School before Holman opened) said that among his biggest challenges are the misperceptions that exist about gender in that curriculum. He has found it especially rewarding, as a result, to watch female students blossom.
He described one such student who began besting older students in competitions as a sixth-grader, delivered winning campaign speeches as a seventh-grader, moved on to leadership positions in TSA (Technology Student Association) and “almost single-handedly increased the female interest in engineering, technology and TSA.” Recently, he said, he was honored to provide letters of reference as she applied to schools of higher education.
Another challenge of teaching technology, he said, is what he calls the “influences of the modern Information Age.”
While modern electronic marvels save time and provide instant information and entertainment, he said, they also foster a perception that technology is the answer to everything, “and that success is just a keypunch away.
“I try to instill in the students,” said Turner, “that no matter what electronic gadgets we have at our disposal, they are [simply] tools . . .The greatest computer or tool ever made sits squarely on their shoulders – and its potential is limitless.”
He also strives to find special and unique things about what interests each student, and to teach “every student in every class like they are preparing to go to Harvard.”
Seeing his students embrace new ideas and apply their classroom lessons in exciting ways at technology competitions, he says, is “marvelous to behold.”
Turner succeeds at getting to know every student, according to parents, because his work day often lasts from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“His door is always open,” marveled one parent. “Kids will hang out in his classroom both before and after school, when they need a place to ‘just be’, or need a shoulder to lean on. . . He teaches so much more than just technology. He welcomes all children, and finds a way to connect with each one.”
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