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Meet Chad Hamilton, Math Teacher at Whittemore Park Middle School
In October, Whittemore Park’s Chad Hamilton was presented the Extra Yard for Teachers award sponsored by the College Football Playoff Foundation, a national honor that celebrates, inspires and empowers teachers. In a new series of profiles, HCS UpClose invites you to get to know people who are Inspiring Possibilities.
Chad Hamilton is hard to miss. Standing 6’3”, he towers over the 6th grade adolescents at Whittemore Park Middle School who are ready for today’s pre-algebra lesson. For the next 30 minutes, Hamilton leads his students through the exercise of plotting ordered pairs on the XY axis. They plot, slide, and reflect on a giant grid.
Only in his third year teaching, Hamilton works the room with the tenacity of a coach. He breaks a sweat moving between blending learning stations, checking student work, and providing individual assistance. He jokes that he has eyes in the back of his head, noticing the slightest movement in the room. Years of being an offensive lineman have sharpened his ability to maintain complete focus and complete awareness at the same time.
During instruction, Hamilton drives home some of mathematical must-dos; like following the order of operations and breaking down a complex problem sentence by sentence. He cites today’s standard and posts his agenda to the wall. Math is a definitive curriculum where right answers are found through the practice and precision of problem
What is less definitive is the teacher in the room. It is clear that Hamilton has a good rapport with his students. He gives and receives respect. He watches for eye contact and body language to gauge understanding. His awareness of the room allows him to shepherd a pupil who wondered off topic. Chad shows the kind of connectedness that seems instinctive, almost easy. Later after the change of class, Hamilton breaks for a few minutes to talk. The broad-shouldered lineman may have been menacing on the field, yet when asked about his students, his face quickly yields to a smile and genuine joy.
“I love them,” he said. “The kids need to feel that you care. I talk to my students about everyday problems and how to find positive outcomes. We work to solve problems in-house,” he said.
It is a strategy that keeps misunderstandings from winding out into the hallway, onto the bus, or back to the neighborhood.
“Never let another student control how you feel,” he tells them.
In addition to his responsibilities as a teacher, Hamilton and a colleague co-sponsor the school’s Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club, a group of male students who gather regularly to learn study habits and test-taking skills. They also talk about self-discipline, setting goals, going to college and exploring careers. They volunteer to help others and learn the value of giving back to their communities.
Whether in the classroom or working with the club, Hamilton says the most important thing is to be a positive role model on a daily basis. “You have to step up to the plate,” he said. “You are always on stage. The kids are always watching you.”
He adds that he has 78 students for 180 days each, that’s over 14,000 opportunities to make a connection.
“We emphasize self-worth and self-respect,” Hamilton said. “They are worth far more than they think.”
At the head of the classroom, Hamilton looks like a natural, like someone who took to math rather easily. He said he didn’t. It was his own 6th grade math teacher who made the difference, empowering him through high expectations, trust and support. He described the teacher as being personable and approachable. Years later, the same middle school math teacher came to watch him play at Coastal Carolina University. He was the teacher that changed Hamilton’s perceptions about his own abilities and the one who inspired him to become a teacher, himself. His teacher, now a fan, stayed after the game to talk for an hour.
Hamilton’s journey to joining the field of education involved a field that is 100 yards long. As a highly-recruited football standout from James Island High School, Chad signed to play for CCU in 2010. He earned three All Big South honors, Consensus All American, was named to the National Football Hampshire Honor Society, and was a starter for the Chanticleers for over three years.
More importantly, yet perhaps with less fanfare, he graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in education and followed with a Master’s degree in 2015. Chad signed as a free-agent with the Chicago Bears that same year. After a sports injury, he retired from the NFL to pursue his “real life’s purpose.” He followed his heart back to the school where he had been a student teacher and where he met the love of his life.
Now an educator, Hamilton was humbled recently with the Extra Yard for Teachers award sponsored by the College Football Playoff Foundation award, a national award that honors, celebrates, inspires and empowers teachers. Representatives from CCU nominated Chad for the award and presented it during a surprise announcement at the school, noting that the road to college is often attributed to supportive, committed teachers.
Just like a math teacher who emphasizes sequences and order of operations, Hamilton seems to have applied the same strategies to his life. He wanted to go to college and to play football and he did. He wanted to make it to the NFL and he did. He wanted to become a teacher, a husband, and a father and he did. After teaching for a while, he would like to get into school administration.
“I appreciate everything I have achieved, but I don’t get complacent,” he said. Chad and his wife are the proud parents of a two-year old son, Rome, and a sixth-month old daughter, Zalen. His wife, Danielle, teaches 6th grade science at Socastee Middle School.
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