One week he may be a king of ancient Mesopotamia, the next a Pharaoh of Egypt. He may start off a course about archaeology by having students walk into the classroom to the theme of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” while he sports a fedora, khakis and a whip.
Regardless of the unusual outfit he’s wearing, or what ancient civilization he’s teaching, Fort Zumwalt South Middle history teacher Earl Haskins is a character. Even better, he’s Mid Rivers Newsmagazine’s Teacher of the Year – proof that the seventh-grade teacher is loved by his former and current students.
“He made learning fun, interactive,” said Grant Baisch, one of the students who nominated him. “He’s just a great guy in general.”
Earl received the Mid Rivers Newsmagazine Teacher of the Year award in a surprise celebration on May 20 in front of a crowd of cheering students.
South Middle student Jake Patton wrote, “Instead of just teaching us about a subject, he uses simulations to help students understand the topic more and make it feel like they’re actually in the past.”
Haskins’ lesson plans include interesting quirks that go beyond a strange outfit here and there. He also incorporates elements of the culture that a class is currently studying in day-to-day schoolwork. For example, during the section on the Middle Ages, the boys in the class had to spend three weeks being chivalrous – standing when the girls walked into the room and carrying their books for them. Then, the girls nominated several of those boys to be dubbed knights.
“Throughout the year, I try to show interest,” Haskins said. “And if I’m interested, the kids say, ‘Hey, there must be something to this.’ So I try to make it enjoyable, meaningful and fun for them.”
Beyond history class, Haskins is noted as being one of those teachers who really care about the student population.
“He made me feel like I belonged somewhere,” said student Michael Hoffman.
It’s not surprising that Teacher of the Year isn’t Haskins’ first teaching-related commendation. He also was recently named as one of the top 10 teachers in the United States and recognized on the “Live With Regis and Kelly” television show.
Though an admittedly biased source, Haskins’ wife, Karol, said she wishes she’d had a teacher like her husband.
“He makes history so interesting, and he tells stories about people, and it really just brings it all to life,” Karol said. “Each culture, they (the students) live it, and it’s just so cool.”
Haskins said he enjoys teaching because it gives him the chance to impact students, to help them enjoy school and create a friendly environment.
“The big thing about him is that he builds a community,” Karol said. “We go to all the high school football games and basketball games, and kids are still flocking around him, when they are seniors, when they are in college. I think there’s something about that community that he builds that’s long-lasting, and I think that’s one of the keys to his success.”
Many local businesses and community institutions help to sponsor the Mid Rivers Newsmagazine Teacher of the Year award, including Green China, Pulaski Bank of O’Fallon, Dream Play Recreation, Mattress Direct, Green Lantern Car Wash and CenterPointe Hospital. In addition to bragging rights, the Teacher of the Year recipient receives a prize package including an iPad,, dinner certificates, cake, flowers and a commemorative plaque.