Katie Walters, CFNN Editor/Reporter
Chris Lucas is known for his infamous AP Human Geography course, unique classroom environment, personalized teaching style, and now his selection as a Cumberland County Teacher of the Year finalist.
After Mr. Lucas received the North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship, he went to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, graduating with a Bachelor of History and a minor in Spanish.
As a part of his scholarship, he agreed to teach for 4 years at a public high school. Lucas began his career as an educator at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Now in his 10th year of teaching, he has made it to Cape Fear High School.
When asked why he chose to be a teacher, he stated that both of his parents were teachers. His mother was a Spanish teacher and his father was a history teacher. He saw the impact that his parents had on their students, and how happy they were with their lives. “They didn’t deal with the same mundane tasks that other people do in their careers, and they had a lot of fulfillment,” Lucas said.
“While we might not have had a yacht, we had a pretty good lifestyle. Teachers don’t make that much money obviously, but we made a good amount,” he explained.
As well as teaching AP Human Geography, AP European History, and American History, Mr. Lucas is the Girls Varsity Tennis Coach and has recently taken on the Speech and Debate Honors class and team. He teaches this with his wife, Amy Lucas, who is an English teacher here at Cape Fear.
Mr. Lucas likes to take a more personal approach when educating his students. A pedagogy is a teacher’s philosophy or approach taken to teaching. This involves using the theory of education, and different methods of teaching are derived from the core ideas discovered from that theory.
Every lesson, Mr. Lucas likes to give something for each individual student that helps them make the topic feel more relatable. From the use of analogies based on his students’ interests to personalized words of encouragement, he makes sure that his students have a safe and engaging place to learn.
“He made an effort to talk to everyone once a day,” says former student Lorelei Harr. “If a teacher makes an effort to talk to every student once a day, it helps the students know that the teacher cares, and it makes them want to work harder in their class.”
When basing his teaching techniques on his students, he uses a more established method in the background. Before going into a teacher of the year interview, he needed a quick but efficient way to explain his plan (or pedagogy) to the interviewers.
So, he created his Four R’s. Listed in order from most important to least important, Lucas captures the essential elements needed for teaching his students in the best possible way through four simple R words.
The first R is for relationships. He begins working toward this goal by building a relationship based on trust and empathy. “It’s important for the students to see you as their advocate, their ally, not their advisory or authoritative figure that’s trying to hold them back,” he says.
Even though there’s a lack of human connection with virtual learning, Mr. Lucas takes the time to ask questions about his students, or meet with them after the meetings for just a couple minutes.
The second is for realities. This was based on Dr. Christopher Emdin’s “reality pedagogy,” which is being aware of their students’ everyday lives, from their background to their passions and their challenges. This information can be used to create a meaningful lesson for that specific student. Teachers can also use this to work with their students more closely through their obstacles.
The third is for rigor. While this is usually perceived as how much and how hard a student can work, rigor means challenging their mind and encouraging them to be creative.
“Especially in a subject like social studies, you need to give a kid a platform to have their voice heard,” Lucas said. This allows them to be comfortable with asking questions, especially when they’re developing their own interpretations of things within the curriculum.
Lastly, the fourth R is for rewards. As a competitive person himself, Mr. Lucas has excelled in this category, with his students’ AP scores reaching above the national average, and exceeding growth in his American History 1 class. He deems his scores and data to be the least important R. By focusing too much on the results, the classroom experience can be less valued.
As for the interview experience, Lucas said it has been enjoyable but stressful at the same time. The first part of the process after being selected is to write 5 essays about your pedagogy and experiences from teaching. “I actually enjoyed that part of the process, because if you’re passionate about teaching, then getting the opportunity to explain that passion is a true privilege,” Lucas stated.
Once making it through that selection round, the representative for the attendance area. This section involved another interview to further explain the details of your pedagogy. Lucas went through these with a breeze. It was right before the final round that he started to get stressed.
“I wanted to make sure that my message was clear and concise, because the Teacher of the Year honor is more than an award to me, it is a platform, and I am passionate about my message of equity,” he told. He has completed the final interview, which went great! It more like a conversation to him than an interview, and we are now awaiting the results.
With his passion for teaching and unconditional love for his students, Coach Lucas is well-deserving of this nomination. He is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to represent our school, and couldn’t be more appreciative of all the support. The Cumberland County Teacher will be announced via a virtual event on September 14, 2020.
We believe that Mr. Lucas deserves one more R, recognition, for being a dedicated member of the Cape Fear family. “My family lives out in this community,” he said. “We’ve trenched ourselves in the community, and we couldn’t be happier or luckier teaching here.”