All these years later, Eric Welch can still feel the sting of his favorite high school teacher’s words.
It was his junior year at a high school in Panama, one of several locations where his family lived through his father’s numerous transfers during his military career. By his third year at the high school run by the United States Department of Defense, Welch had realized a math teacher named Ms. Thatcher was his favorite.
She not only stirred his interest in algebra and geometry, but she also placed high value in each of her students and was genuinely supportive of all both academically and in how to behave as growing adults.
And she didn’t tolerate excessive cutups, as Welch later learned. He was smarting off to a classmate one day, and Ms. Thatcher told him she wanted to see him after class.
“She was a disciplinarian, so I thought I would get punished somehow,” Welch said. “But all she did was say, ‘I thought you were better than that. I’m disappointed in you.’ Even now, I can still remember that.
“It just crushed me. … I would have much rather had an in-school suspension or something like that. … It wasn’t meant to be nasty or mean or cutting me down; it was just an honest statement of ‘I’m disappointed in you.’ I still remember that.”
Now 50 years old and the father of two grown sons who could name their own favorite teachers, Welch can relate that experience with Ms. Thatcher to the value he places on those educators within both the Franklin Special School District and Williamson County Schools.
It’s part of the reason he decided to run again as the District 10 incumbent in the Williamson County Board of Education race. A Republican, Welch is facing challengers Jennifer Haile, a Democrat, and William “Doc” Holladay, an independent, in the Aug. 4 election.
"I suspect nearly all of us have had at least one teacher in our lives that has helped shape the person we are today,” Welch said. “Despite all the mandated testing we're required to give, it still doesn't come close to fully measuring the impact a caring, professionally trained educator can have on a child and how they influence so much more than just a test score. Teachers shape how a child views the world. … They spark new passions, unrealized talents, and create appreciation for things never imagined.”
Welch, who has worked in consumer market research the past 14 years or so, was first elected to the school board in 2010, but lost four years later to Beth Burgos in an election that saw several incumbents fall. Burgos resigned, however, in 2017, and Welch was selected by the Williamson County Commission to take over the District 10 vacancy. He was elected to keep the seat in 2018.
Considering the time commitment and emotional investment required to serve on the school board these days, Welch admits he had to do a bit of soul-searching to determine whether to run again in 2022. He said the encouragement and support he began receiving from family, friends and constituents led him to go for it.
“For me,” Welch said, “it came down to [the question of], do I still have the fire in my belly to do the job? And yes, I do. I think I definitely still have much to contribute and offer. I would be the senior person on the board, and I bring a lot of history and experience there.
“I remember when I first got on the board, being a rookie, I had (board members) helping me out and explaining not just what it was with policies, but why. I think that’s a role I have now taken on myself, to be that mentor to a lot of our newer and younger board members.”
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