Why travel

Meet a member of the EF Superhero League, Erick Innis!

Erick Innis

via Erick Innis

Teachers are the world’s greatest unsung heroes, so to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked students to tell us what makes their favorite teacher a superhero. After reading the nomination story for Erick Innis—a science teacher from Athens, Tennessee—we knew he certainly fit the cape.

Get to know the superhero—in his own words:

Special power: Finding ways to connect with students and helping them see their ultimate purpose and value!

Origin story: I was in medical school, and was overwhelmed with the reality that I was not intended for that purpose. After withdrawing, and with no plan, I asked myself really for the first time, “What could I do that would merge what I think I’d be good at with what I like?” While the significant salary difference was deterring, I knew there was another currency that I valued more than financial payment.

Kryptonite: Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. (Was this supposed to be a deep answer? 🙂 )

Erick Innes Students

via Erick Innes

Here’s what Erick Innis’ students had to say in their nomination stories:

Mr. Innis is the prime example of how students would like every teacher to be. His ability to motivate the students that have no desire to learn is incredible. I have seen him work through problems with students (academic and personal) in a way that no other teacher has. He has inspired not only my love for biology, but my love for travel, people, and life itself. His mother was recently diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, yet he remains positive; in fact, he is one of the most optimistic people I know. He teaches his students to appreciate every day. He has a sign hanging in his room that says “passionately in pursuit,” which he explained is the phrase his students should live their lives by. He wants his students to care about something, whether it’s being a brain surgeon, a math teacher, a stay-at-home mom, or anything in between. He encourages his students to find their interests and pursue them. His devotion to the betterment of his students is truly inspiring. I have never and most likely will never have a teacher that even comes close to lighting a fire in me to be the best I can be like Mr. Innis has.

– Jaye H.

As a high school senior, I have met and become close to literally dozens of teachers over the past thirteen years. When I say that Erick Innis is special and unique, I do not say that lightly. Erick Innis is a superhero to the McMinn County High School community for so many reasons. First, he is beyond passionate about biology. For example, in order to better reach his biology students and enable them to grasp difficult concepts, he spent weeks developing a rap song to the tune of Hamilton. Knowing that music has been a proven study tool, he used his personal talents to help his students study for their end-of-course exams.

Erick does not allow negativity into the classroom. He is full of positive energy every day and works hard to ensure no student falls through the cracks. Our county is one with a high level of poverty. We are small, our school is old and lacks amenities, and student experiences are limited. Despite these setbacks, Erick has been successful in implementing international travel experiences into the curriculum for the past three years. This is the first time something like this has been possible in McMinn County. Erick works with community partners, families, and students to make the experience financially feasible. I am one student who never would have experienced international travel were if not for Mr. Innis.

Superheroes know no limitations, and that is the perfect description of Mr. Innis. I am forever grateful for him, his mentorship, and the opportunities he made possible for me as a student at McMinn County High School. I am one student who never would have experienced international travel were it not for Mr. Innis.

– Katherine G.

What makes Mr. Innis a superhero? Well first I must explain his extraordinary teaching skills. Mr. Innis is a super-interactive teacher that makes learning exciting. He has memorization techniques for biology, school spirit, and things that are just for fun.

Another awesome thing Mr. Innis did was rap a parody of Hamilton’s song “My Shot” and called it “What I’ve Taught.” The song completely summarizes everything that he taught in biology from the beginning of the year to the end. This makes Mr. Innis a hero because there are so many kids that don’t understand biology, but by him swooping in and delivering an awesome rap that is cohesive and exciting, those kids would be ready for their exams!

 When you enter his room, it is like you have traveled to many new parts of the world all at once. You could say that is his super power. He is the type of teacher that can take you to whole new places without leaving your own school. Through each part of his classroom you get teleported to different parts of the world! In one corner of the room you may be in a rainforest, and in another corner, the desert.  

Mr. Innis has a mission set out before him to offer every kid in my school the opportunity to travel abroad through EF Tours and to me that is a true hero. There are so many kids where I live, which is very rural, that have never left the county—but with Mr. Innis, their possibilities are endless! He is one of the best teachers I have ever had and I am so thankful to have had him freshman year and I am looking forward to the Australia trip through EF Tours with him this summer! Without him as a teacher, I would never have gotten this amazing opportunity. Thank you, Mr. Innis! You are all of the McMinn students’ hero.

– Nadia F.

[What makes him a superhero?] His ability to make learning fun and interesting. Plus, he’s supportive and understanding to each student—and has many great qualities as a person and a teacher!

– David F.

Let’s give teachers like Erick Innis the superhero recognition they deserve.

To thank Erick for his service, we rewarded him with a $1,000 school donation as well as a trip to New York City. And to thank all teachers, we’re lighting the Empire State Building in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. See it shine in EF’s signature pink on Friday, May 11. After all, superhero teachers deserve a super-large spotlight.

Sarah Bennett

Sarah is a copywriter at EF Education First. When she isn’t writing, you can find her browsing through bookshops, trying to cook, or going to improv class (which is basically just an excuse for adults to play make-believe).

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