Alumnus Thomas Echols recognized for his contributions in education

In his first two years of teaching, Alcorn State University alumnus and Columbia, Mississippi native Thomas Echols is reaping the benefits of being a committed mathematics educator.

Echols’ hard work in the classroom caught the eyes of his co-workers and students, which led to them naming him East Marion High School’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.

“It is an honor and a blessing,” said Echols, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education in 2014. “To be nominated by former teachers, co-workers and students just showed me that someone sees the work that I put in and appreciates it. For this to happen to me at such a young age and early in my career is a blessing.”

Along with his new title of Teacher of the Year, Echols was also selected as one of Marion County’s Top 12 Under 40. On the third Sunday of each month, the Hattiesburg American will feature one of the young professionals for their career success and community service. With all of the accolades coming his way, Echols said that his focus remains on helping his students achieve success.

“To be honest, the recognition has not changed what I do at all. I didn’t come into this profession seeking awards, but to help students. So I am still motivated to make a difference in at least one student’s life.”

Echols’ urge to teach started while doing a senior project on peer tutoring during his senior year in high school. After being under the tutelage of his mathematics teacher and noticing the absence of positive African-American influences in his community, he knew that positioning himself to mentor was important.

“I noticed that there weren’t many positive black male role models in the community. I wanted to change that. Being a teacher has allowed me reach out to young black males. I enjoy the relationships that I have built with my students because I am able to motivate and steer them into the right direction.”

Echol’s advice to aspiring teachers is to realize that they will play an important role in the maturation of students.

“There are going to be good days and bad days, but through it all, remember that there is at least one student’s life who is going to be changed for the better because of you!”