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Teacher keeps youthful flare as career winds down

Physics+teacher+Jim+Stockton+teaches+his+students+how+to+use+dimensional+analysis.
Physics teacher Jim Stockton teaches his students how to use dimensional analysis.

Physics teacher Jim Stockton teaches his students how to use dimensional analysis.

Alicia Tan

Alicia Tan

Physics teacher Jim Stockton teaches his students how to use dimensional analysis.

Luke Starnes, Sports Editor

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Every morning before school, physics teacher Jim Stockton waits patiently in line at the local Whataburger. Nearly every time he orders, it’s a Whataburger with cheese, no onions, extra tomatoes and a little extra mustard. Even though jalapeño peppers affect him a little more than they used to, he still likes to throw on a couple extra to complete his burger. He’s not stopping that until his stomach just simply won’t let him.

Stockton takes his Whataburger mentality with him to his next destination: his job as a teacher here, where he has worked now for six years and where his career will come to an end at the conclusion of this school year. Stockton was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2003, but he fought through his first bout and returned to teaching. However, a second bout years later has left Stockton with a low energy level that has caused him to realize retirement is the best decision for both him and his students.

“Although my bone cancer is in remission, I know I only have a few years left,” Stockton said. “I always pledged that I never wanted to create a situation where the students weren’t getting the maximum effort from me, and if that came up, I would have to resign.”

Assistant Principal Jim Roe has been here since Stockton’s arrival, and he will be here for his departure. He said he’s always admired of Stockton’s ability to teach and connect with others, as well as his persistence. The administration tried to give Stockton a half schedule so he could go home and rest, but Stockton insisted on a full workload during his final year. Despite being absolutely drained of energy, Stockton was determined to get back to his students.

“He lets the kids keep him young and that is one of the secrets to teaching,” Roe said. “He’ll laugh and cut up because he’s all about that great relationship with kids. It will not be the same walking by that classroom door next year and not seeing him in there.”

However, Stockton’s career hasn’t always been inside of the classroom. For years, he worked at Dow Chemical Company where he worked as a research chemist. At Dow, Stockton earned more in two weeks than he does now in a whole month as a teacher. But his career choice wasn’t about the money. After seeing the necessity of up-and-coming students with strong backgrounds in science, Stockton chose to resign in order to help students prepare for their futures. After a stretch as a curriculum planner for the district, he decided it was time to get into teaching.

“I liked the atmosphere, the character of the staff, as well as the mixture of students,” Stockton said. “Everything seemed really positive, and I feel I really made the right choice.”

Students and teachers who know Stockton acknowledge his sincere passion for teaching and his remarkable abilities to connect with students. His “Stockton-isms,” as students call them, bring out the humorous side in the always-jolly Stockton. He’ll call “bull-hockey” if you try to lie, and don’t think for a second that he won’t get onto you for “shooting the breeze.”

Math teacher Randal Cary said he has developed a strong relationship at school with Stockton. Cary recalls early on, when every time he would enter Stockton’s room, Stockton would inform the class it was Cary’s birthday. The joke reached the point where the class would wish Cary a happy birthday automatically, no matter what day it was. Through all of the good fun, Cary sees a man who truly connects with his students.

“I’ll miss his sense of humor and his positive outlook,” Cary said. “He demands and receives the respect of all students, and he motivates the students to ask why. He adds a personal relationship with students because he wants them to succeed.”

After retirement, Stockton is looking forward to reading (one of his favorites is the Harry Potter series) as well as traveling with his wife, Mary. Their favorite vacation spot is Lake Louis, Canada. They hope to spend time there and take cruises on rivers throughout Europe, a longtime dream of Stockton’s. But even after that final dismissal bell rings and the school year is out, Stockton won’t forget his favorite part about teaching.

“Seeing students catch on to a concept, I mean, there’s nothing like it,” Stockton said. “There’s something really special in the students’ eyes when something that wasn’t making sense all of a sudden does.”

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Teacher keeps youthful flare as career winds down