His staff think it’s only fitting that Principal Nathaniel Holmes’ last two assemblies of Martin Middle School students spotlighted academic achievement, strides for improvement and character – the focus of most of his 44 ½ years in the Martin education system.
As Holmes concludes his long tenure – first as a Westview High School teacher and coach, then assistant principal and, since 1990, principal at the middle school – his students and staff concluded Wednesday’s Student Incentive Program with a surprise. Holmes’ granddaughter, eighth-grader Yaya Holmes, presented the retiring Holmes with his own Character Award – “for showing great character as teacher, principal and leader.”
The morning presentation of awards recognizing significant improvements in students’ work followed the Monday Honors Night held at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Among the awards presented was the Principal’s Award, given to all students with a cumulative average of 93 or above in each academic subject. Twenty-eight sixth-graders, 35 students in seventh grade, and 17 in eighth received this award.
Presentation of the President’s Educational Award, given to eighth grade students who have made a personal commitment to excellence by earning an A average in all academic subjects for three years, went to Ena Abad, Jackson Abel, Hudson Adkins, Angelina Barr, Channing Covington, Kylie Diehl, Amy Kang, Lauren Merritt, Michael Moon, Frank Newton, Sophia Shaw, Natalie Williams and Abbi Woods.
The Academic Hall of Fame Award was presented to eighth grader Sophia Shaw as the student with the highest cumulative academic grade-point average for three years.
Tuesday’s nod to students who have improved is one of the initiatives that Holmes began to “try and motivate and encourage” his students.
The top three students deemed “overall most improved” were: Brisa Camacho, sixth grade; Crystal Askins, seventh grade; and Shmya Crosby, eighth grade.
“My hope is for all students here to be successful. My definition is ‘you’re successful when you do your best’”, he said, noting that his philosophy was shaped by NCAA basketball coach John Wooden. “Not everyone can be star players, but everybody can be good player and the team working together makes the difference.”
In his four and half decades of working with children and youth, Holmes has seen the educational landscape change, noting the decline in students’ respectful interaction with teachers and parent’s level of support for the school as well as an increase in the students’ intelligence.
“They know so much more than we did,” he said. “They have access to so much more information. My five-year-old granddaughter operates electronic devices that I can’t imagine how to even begin to use.”
As for retirement, Holmes says there are “projects to complete and places to go.” But when asked for details on what he plans to do first, he was quick to reply. “Going to bed when I want to and getting up when I want to” are on the top of his agenda.
Staff and students agree, that’s a reward he’s more than earned.
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