Teaching is about relationships, Aric Bostick told area school teachers Tuesday, and he urged them to model in the classroom what it’s like to enjoy life.

“Kids learn because we show them how,” Bostick told educators preparing to begin the new school year next week. “We must model that. Go ahead and walk the walk. This isn’t prison… The classroom should be a place they can’t wait to be in.”

In two 90-minute sessions — for secondary school teachers in the morning and elementary school teachers in the afternoon — Bostick offered his high-octane message to approximately 900 area educators.

It was part of a series of back-to-school programs presented by the Region XV Educational Service Center in San Angelo. Programs similar to the one hosted by Brownwood High School Tuesday are being given in Del Rio, Sonora and San Angelo.

Bostick, from San Antonio, is a motivational speaker who has addressed more than a half million teachers and students in 33 states.

Bostick’s program had his audience alternating between clapping and cheering for educational successes to introspective moments during which educators from the audience reflected on why they went into the profession or how one particular teacher influenced them.

“You cannot give what you don’t have,” Bostick said, encouraging teachers to be enthusiastic about their work and their lives, and to let their students see it. “If you’re not fired up about this year, how are you going to fire up the students?”

Bostick said as a youth, he was “one of those kids — one of those kids who got on your nerves.” He said his parents had substance abuse and emotional problems, but he later saw how those scars became strengths for him. His father now been sober for 31 years.

The turning point for young Aric came when his high school’s basketball coach asked him to come out for the team despite his short stature. Then, when the coach kicked him off the team when he was late for practice — because he was at a counseling session so he could keep living with his father — the coach gave him a second chance.

“Like every student who walks in your room, I had a story,” Bostick said. “When you hear that story, it all makes sense.”

He said the students who cause trouble or who wear unusual attire are crying out for attention, and they need the teachers’ help. Obviously, their parents aren’t providing it, he said.

“So why not the teacher?”, Bostick said. “No student is worth giving up on. Even angry students need you. The best and brightest don’t always need the attention. What about the kid who’s working hard to make a D-minus?

“Education is about relationships. When did we stop relating to each other?”

He described teaching as a calling — the most important work any member of his audience would ever do.

“TAKS is important, and we’ve got to learn some stuff, but Mother Teresa said the first job of a teacher is to love our students.”

Throughout the day, teachers also attended a variety of breakout sessions on varying educational topics.

Scot Goen, executive director of the Region XV Education Service Center, said the center is experimenting with different delivery seminars “to help (teachers) get your school year off to a great start.”