Howard, Clark talk career paths for ‘Sittin’ With the Supe’

MADISON – Dr. Ed Nichols, Superintendent of Madison City Schools, is communicating with school families and anyone interested in the district with a weekly podcast.

His podcast, “Sittin’ With the Supe,” allows Nichols to introduce school personnel or discuss district plans and policies.

For the week of Aug. 29, Nichols’ guests were Bonnie Howard, District Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Chief Master Sergeant Ellis Clark, District Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Selected “Teacher of the Year” for their respective schools, Howard won at Madison Elementary School as media specialist, and Clark claimed the honor at Bob Jones High School as Archery, Drill, Honor Guard and Marksmanship Teams instructor with Air Force Junior ROTC.

On Institute Day, MCS staff surprised Howard and Clark with their district honor of $5,000.

Howard’s career path twisted and turned to her current job. “I started out as a scientist. I graduated from University of North Alabama with an industrial hygiene degree,” Howard said.

After working in chemistry technology at Redstone Arsenal, she accepted a job as public health environmentalist with the state. Her job required Howard to visit classrooms to discuss health issues.

In those classrooms, Howard realized her true calling. She returned to college for an elementary degree from Athens State University. She worked three years in the science classroom at Madison Elementary and then moved into the library media position.

Clark’s career journey always has involved military service. After joining the military in 1978, he worked on avionics systems of aircraft at several bases.

He was promoted to First Sergeant when “our job was to take care of people. When I retired, I wanted a similar job. Someone said, ‘Why don’t you try Junior ROTC?’” Clark said.

Clark applied with various schools and was turned down. He then received a call from Bob Jones and started working the very next week. Clark retired as a Chief Master Sergeant.

People mistakenly think JROTC is a recruiting tool, but its sole basis is building citizens with good character. “We get them out into the community so they can see their self-worth,” Clark said.

Clark and his cadets discuss “life after high school” with options for college, the workforce or military. “Only about five percent enter the military, but in college they may join ROTC for its benefits,” he said.

This year, Bob Jones AFJROTC has 100 new freshman. Overall, the program has 190 cadets.

“The library is no longer a quiet place. Today, media specialists are the heartbeat of the school,” Howard said. Howard promotes literacy, helps facilitate research and collaborates with teachers for classroom needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic demanded extra work, especially cleaning, for library workers. “We had to put on our game face. We delivered books in car line, continued book recommendations online and supported teachers with using technology,” Howard said.

Clark’s cadets recently started a Raiders Team that competes with Army fitness teams. “It’s very strenuous, but our cadets are excited. 35 students are participating,” Clark said.

Clark is proud of AFJROTC Honor Guard’s record and first places at competition in Daytona, Fla. “Nationally, people know Bob Jones very well,” he said.

Cadets also excelled in Land Navigation at Birmingham’s Oak Mountain, Sabre Team at banquets, and drone certification to enter that booming field. “Aerospace Team is branching into quad-copters and drones. With training, they can get certification,” Clark said. Archery and marksmanship teams continue to gain members.

Howard welcomed Madison’s new ‘staff member’: Barney the support dog. “Barney lets students feel comfortable and take risks in learning. In car line, Barney relieves students’ apprehension. He has the students’ hearts from the time they see him,” she said.

“I have the best job in the world and work with the most amazing educators,” Howard said. “It’s a privilege and honor to have District Teacher of the Year.”

Traditionally, the media center and AFJROTC aren’t seen as typical classrooms. “Any person who comes in contact and works with a child is a teacher,” Nichols said. “In Madison, we’re blessed to have two representatives like you. You influence lives of young persons every day.”

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