Saying “thank you” and honoring those who serve in various capacities is obviously well-deserved. Military, law enforcement and other first responders deserve and have earned these kudos. They have been blessed with gifts and talents that in the long run, benefit us individually and as a community. While it is important to celebrate those professions, I sometimes feel that an equally as important group does not consistently receive the same attention. The group I am referring to serve many of us individually and definitely as a community. They lead by serving with the gifts and talents they have been blessed with, while sacrificing in ways we see and sometimes, don’t see.

Teachers are an integral part of every community. I will get back to that in a bit. First, I would like to share a story of one of the greatest educators I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Jim Hickman was larger than life in personality and physical stature. Mr. Hickman was a math teacher, football coach, counselor, father of three daughters and most importantly, a friend. “Coach” as most of us called him, did not play the favorites game. Whether you were an “A” or an “F” student, every student was treated with the same love, compassion and energy. As I sit writing this, I can’t help but to smile thinking about exactly how much energy was crammed into his 60-something year old body.

Coach never allowed a student was struggling to remain stagnant and never allowed 4.0 students to believe that a perfect grade point average equated to a perfect person. The lessons he provided were not just related to whichever class he was teaching, but also on how to be successful in life. Because he became such a powerful mentor, I would always know when a powerful thought would soon become one of those lessons. Coach would take his glasses off, cross his arms, look at the ceiling and start with “You know…” before sharing something that would inevitably impact everyone in the class. His love for students translated onto the football field. I cannot remember a single Friday night that he was not the ultimate encourager. Despite a win or loss, he would take the time to lift up everyone. From the players and cheerleaders to the team managers and ticket takers, his impact was widely felt. I was blessed to have such a powerful mentor in my life. Recognizing the fullness of how he helped me grow may have taken several years, but I am forever grateful. Coach is no longer with us, but I have no doubt that he is proof that God uses those around us to make a difference.

Back to my friends who bless our community by making the difference in the lives of children. Most of us know and are amazed how for eight or more hours a day, you act as teacher, counselor, parent, protector along with too many other titles to mention. Obviously, you have all chosen to be educators because of the pay. My apologies. I was watching the NFL Network and my thought process temporarily went in the tank. Another reason teachers deserve to be equally recognized is because money is not, and quite frankly cannot be a driving factor in choosing this career path. I do realize receiving accolades is not what an educator hopes to receive, but nonetheless are well-deserved.

Without teachers, we would not see future generations succeed. Without teachers, we would watch youth struggle and fail and without teachers, millions of lives would be empty. To all the educators out there, if you ever begin to feel down, remember this. You are impact makers and world changers.


Rick Phelps is the news director at KOXE-KBWD radio and a former staff writer for the Brownwood Bulletin. Comments may be emailed to