Chris Collins has wanted to be a teacher since the seventh grade.
“I’ve had a lot of teachers who were good and a lot of teachers who were bad, so in my time in middle school I realized what I needed from my teachers, what they did do that was great to help me be a better person and the things that could have been prevented.”
Chris said he wanted to be a champion of the people who had no champion, so he decided to come to Nashville to go to school and teach.
He is in his third year of teaching algebra and a senior class at John Overton High School.
VOICE for the VOICELESS
Growing up in Rochester, New York, school and personal life for Chris was difficult.
“I remember being called names and being put down. I remember being told how worthless I was. I remember being shunned and avoided because I was weird,” he said.
Chris said there came a time when he contemplated suicide and planned how he might do it. It took someone else to show him that he had a job to do.
At a young age, Chris’ older brother was sexually abused.
“He suffered a horror that no one should ever have to endure. I love him with all my heart,” he said. “I remember the night he barricaded himself in his room and was trying to end his own life. I remember trying so hard to break into his room, telling him to please don’t leave me.”
“It was that day I swore to myself that I would be the man that he needed. I would be there in the ways that my brother need. I would be the voice for the voiceless. I would be an ear for ones not heard,” he said.
After graduating from high school decided he wanted to go to one of the top education schools in the country. His love for music made his decision to come to Nashville an easy one.
“I love listening to music and going to concerts, and I love being able to do that here,” he said. Chris is a huge fan of RED, a hardcore Christian band and has seen them many times since he’s been in Nashville.
Chris graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and mathematics.
TEACHING in CULTURE
“I love the diversity, and I love the culture,” he said about his school. “There are so many different communities that the students are pulling from and they’re interacting in one location.”
Chris said whether they realize it or not, students are learning about different cultures from each other.
“I went to a private school, and it was 99 percent white,” he said. After moving to Nashville, he said his mind started expanding. “Now, I can talk to kids and tell them to get to class in four different languages.”
Chris said the best part is seeing his students smile and realizing they are smart. He said he looks forward to seeing his students want to learn and get curious.
“Education is suppose to be a means to empower students, not to confine them,” he said. “It’s not about if they can repeat something. It’s about taking information and discovering a greater world.”
Chris said when that happens in his classroom, it’s such an amazing moment.
He said one of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that the job ends when the last bell rings.
“Between clubs and sports that you go to watch and support your students in, between grading papers or weekends and lesson planning, there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish everything you need to do to be a successful teacher from when the school day starts to when it ends.”
“Jokingly, I used to say math makes more sense than women, but I don’t really make that joke as much any more,” he said.
“I like the way the numbers logically make sense. I can show why things occur. I can show the students that there are connections and how they can apply to the real world,” he said.
Chris described having a career in something he loves as liberating, but he also understands that math can be challenging.
“College was hard, and I realized the strength it takes to persevere through how difficult some classes can be,” he said. “I take that into consideration with my students.”
He said many times students come in and struggle with the basic skills of adding and subtracting numbers. Chris said it’s his job to help students build on that foundation and apply it to the bigger ideas of graphing and identifying patterns.
Chris has used popular mobile gaming apps like Minecraft and Angry Birds to relate the information better to students.
“[We calculated] the flight of the birds, and really apply this stuff, and the students attach on to it,” he said.
“I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m having fun with it,” he said. “No one should hate their job. If you hate your job that’s not the job you’re suppose to be doing.”
CULTURE and COMMUNITY
Chris defines community as the connections and the relationships that come from the people.
“I think that’s the beauty of Overton, you see so many different cultures interacting with each other. These shared experiences become united,” he said.
He said there were a lot of distinct walls between communities in his hometown but he said he doesn’t see that in Nashville.
He said because of this, students are more open-minded and less judgmental.
“Teenagers are naturally going to be judgmental about some things but as a whole, not at all.”
Chris said Nashville is now more home than his hometown in New York.
“I feel a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging here,” he said.
Chris said he’s never once felt like an outsider.
“I’ve gone to a lot of quinceañeras, and spoken a lot of Spanish,” he said, admitting he was still learning the language through his students. “You don’t have to go far to see something different and experience something different.”
Chris said he believes there’s so much innovation and ideas from different pockets of the community.
“It’s been great interacting with the community too because I get to know the families and get involved with a lot of cultural things. I love this school. I love these kids,” he said.
the FUTURE PUSH
Chris said as a whole the state of education in Metro Nashville Public Schools is on the rise.
“We’ve made a lot of good changes,” he said. “One of the things we’re pushing for is project based learning and interacting students with their peers. I could talk at you as long as I want to but the way you’re going to learn best is you’re interacting with each other. It’s something that the district as a whole is pushing to and I think it is a great direction.”
What matters most to Chris is his love for Jesus Christ.
“The love that He’s showing me, I show that love to the rest of those around me, especially to my students,” he said. “If I haven’t shown them how much I care or how much I’m here for them through their learning than I haven’t done my job.”
Chris sees Nashville being his home for a long time. He said the thought of living elsewhere actually frightens him.
“I like it here too much. I’m comfortable here and I’m excited to be a part of this city,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”