On Wednesday, October 18, Kevin Blankenship arrived in a crowded school gym to hundreds of students, regardless of their graduation year, screaming his name and pulling out their phones to document his every move. Never one to disappoint a crowd, he proceeded to parade around in a cape while wearing a shirt that read, “I’m athletic,” an inside joke between Blankenship and his students.
When prompted on the experience, Blankenship says, “Walking into a building with 3,000 kids and hearing…” he trails off, but returns, in awe: “I don’t know how to put that into words.”
At North Gwinnett High School, Blankenship is no ordinary AP World Geography teacher. In fact, he’s become the school’s de facto celebrity in his own right. Known for his Miami-based swagger and his way of integrating humor into his rapid-fire lectures, Mr. Blankenship succeeds where many teachers have failed–he keeps students interested in the material being presented, and impressively enough, consistently keeps students doubling over in laughter. Blankenship reaffirms this characteristic of his, saying, “I use comedy to try to get kids to buy into what I’m selling.” Just as students remember, say, the three-field system used during the High Middle Ages and the Hittites’ extensive iron production, they remember Blankenship’s trip to the Vatican (and of course, him being thrown out of the Vatican).
However, perhaps Blankenship’s effectiveness as a teacher lies not in his humor, but in his way to emotionally and personally connect with each and every student by simply being himself. Blankenship says, “I feel like teaching can be such a rewarding experience. It’s not a job. It’s who you are. When you’re in Mr. B.’s class, you get Mr. B. all the time.” Blankenship’s personality has already been described as funny, but Blankenship personally invests in giving students relief from their hectic schedule. Ashley Rutledge, a student of his, says, “He puts in extra effort to make sure that students in his class are comfortable and not stressed out about what we are learning.” His reach even extends beyond his world geography class to students such as Sabrina Mora, who says, “He tries his best to connect with his students and make them comfortable and happy. I feel at home in his [classroom] which is something that means a lot to me. I’m so thankful I have him as a mentor and friend.”
When asked about this unique teaching style, Blankenship always returns to one word: passion. Blankenship says, “I feel like if I’m passionate, then kids will be like, ‘Okay I’m tired and I don’t want to learn, but Mr. B. is giving me 200% of his energy, so I’m going to meet him halfway.’ What I don’t make in money, I make so much more in the satisfaction of teaching kids. Having a kid at graduation say, ‘Mr. B., you changed my life,’ is worth more than another 100,000 dollars in my pocket.” His passion is echoed by his students and by his teaching intern, Joshua Martinez, who says, “Mr. Blankenship is an individual who puts as much passion as he wants to see in the world into everything he does.”
When I ask Martinez further on his opinion of Blankenship, he grins.
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