Former College Sports Star Wins 'Best Pre-K Teacher' Award

As first black man to win award, he wants his students to know being black and successful is about "more than sports."

Jonathan Hines wanted to be a pro basketball player when he grew up. He played in college and even got drafted to an international team and played overseas. But his life changed after becoming a teaching assistant in a pre-K classroom.

The assistant job was meant to be a transition to getting a position as a Phys Ed teacher, which are highly competitive roles and hard to come by. In the meantime, Hines got to know his way around a classroom and learned how to hold a four-year-old's attention long enough to learn a new lesson (not an easy task!).

Here's a video of Mr. Hines "bringing shapes to life" with his students...

Hines got his Master's degree in Education and continued his work with preschoolers at the Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology in Dekalb, GA. When he was offered a position as a Phys Ed teacher in the district two years later, he turned it down.

Turns out, his decision to stay with the pre-K crew was the right choice, as Hines was named "2019-2020 Pre-K Teacher of the Year" by the Georgia Department of Education. He is the first black man to receive the statewide award.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 2% of teachers are black men with the number slightly higher in Atlanta at 8%. Hines wants to be an example to his students that there are other possibilities for black men to be successful outside of sports and entertainment.

"In the elementary schools, we don't have a lot of male teachers in the ranks," Angela Thomas-Bethea, the principal at Obama, told WSB-TV .

"Now, they have their own hero they can look up to inside the classroom. It's extremely impactful." - Angela Thomas-Bethea

Thomas-Bethea says that Hines' presence at Obama is especially important since the school was pegged as failing before it even opened due to the low test scores of incoming students in the area. Dekalb County is largely made up of single-parent and low-income families. Many of the students have had little to no interaction with men, which can make for some challenging interactions.

"It's personal for us, and we're trying to show that good things can come out of a community that's been written off as poor-performing," Thomas-Bethea said. "We know [children] cannot control where they are born and who their parents are. Through [Hines'] impact, we see a difference in the children. They're communicating better, performing better. It's just changing the whole dynamic in the relationship. And it started in Pre-K."

As part of his award, Hines got a check for $7,500. He'll get to keep $3,000 for himself, and the rest will go to his school and classroom. He'll also travel around the state and share his teaching practices with other educators.

Hines, who thought school was "boring" when he was growing up, is a bit overwhelmed by all of the attention, but he's glad that he can be a positive role model for his students.

"When you set a goal - a very lofty goal - and you happen to attain that goal, it's an amazing feeling," he said.

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(Source: images & video Jj Hines Facebook )

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