tay the way you are, and you’ll go far.”
Those words were written in Blaine Williams’ yearbook when he was a seventh-grader in Centerville in the 1996-97 school year by one of his teachers, Tim Perry.
When Williams reached his freshman year, Perry moved on to teach at Brownstown Central High School. But Perry’s mother was a teacher at Centerville and became Williams’ class sponsor throughout high school, so Perry occasionally received updates on how Williams was doing.
Several years went by until Perry and Williams met by chance in 2011 at a girls basketball semistate game at Southport. Perry was there supporting the Brownstown girls against Winchester, which is a rival of Centerville, and Williams was there watching the game.
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Perry learned Williams was an English teacher at Greenwood Community High School, and they came up with the idea of going to each other’s school for a day and teaching classes.
“I’m sure we thought of it simultaneously, how cool would that be, my former student coming to me and his former teacher going to him,” said Perry, 48. “It was just kind of a natural ‘duh’ no-brainer.”
Perry was still at Brownstown the first year they met up, but the other two times have been at Seymour High School since that’s where he now teaches English. Williams, who is now 30, has always been at Greenwood.
Williams said after he had Perry as a teacher in middle school, he knew he wanted to someday be a teacher himself.
“Up until that point, I had had all through elementary school all female teachers, and then you get to junior high and it’s like, ‘Oh, men teach, too. This is awesome,’” Williams said. “It was like I just got it then. I said, ‘This is what I want to do for sure.’”
After graduating from high school in 2002, Williams went on to earn an education degree from Franklin College.
“I literally would not be standing here if not for him. It’s as simple as that,” Williams said. “I could have gone into a lot of different professions, but because of some of the teachers I had, I just said, ‘This is what I’ve got to do.’”
Teaching is a calling, he said.
“It’s not a job you just kind of go into for the heck of it. It’s a thing that you feel like you have to do,” Williams said. “Are there times where I’m frustrated with education? Absolutely. And do I ever think I should do something else? Sure. But I don’t know what else to do. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12 years old.”
Looking back, Perry said he wasn’t sure Williams would someday be a teacher.
“But I knew whatever he would choose to do, he would do it really well,” Perry said.
When Williams recently visited Seymour, he was in front of Perry’s classroom teaching students. When Perry goes to Greenwood later this school year, he will teach Williams’ classes.
“There are so many things that (Perry) did that I continue to do in my class today that I have stolen or borrowed,” Williams said. “I just feel like since he was able to make that impact on me and I’ve remembered it years later, something was right, and so I should try to do it, too.”
Perry said that reassures him that he has been doing something right all these years.
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because obviously, even though it was in the ‘90s, it worked then,” he said. “Even though we have evolved, I would like to think that my methodologies, my pedagogies still are working.”
Perry said having Williams come to Seymour and teach for a day breaks up the monotony.
“It helps me get better, I think, because when you see the same 155 kids every day, you sometimes can fall into a rut,” Williams said. “But when you get a brand-new group of people you’ve never seen before, it kind of peps you up a little bit, like ‘Yeah, this is why I do this, because it’s fun, and because it’s fun to see kids get things.’”
Perry said teachers always want to see their students succeed. He has seen Williams do just that.
“It makes my heart smile,” Perry said.
At the end of Williams’ recent visit to Seymour, he and Perry found it funny how students at each school say how much they are alike.
They both grew up in Wayne County and are Star Wars fans. And of course, both of them are teachers.
“I guess we were just cut from the same mold,” Perry said. “The Lord above made that out of us.”
Perry said he was so excited about Williams’ recent visit that he didn’t know if he could sleep the night before. He now looks forward to teaching Williams’ students later this school year.
Teaching at each other’s school is something they want to continue doing.
“Why not?” Perry said, with Williams adding, “Absolutely. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.”