Josh Tompkins has his career all mapped out and was well on his way to his dream of success.
Only, once he’d seemingly made it, he realized it might not be what he wanted after all.
“I had an IT degree and I worked in that field for five years,” Tompkins said. “Yet I didn’t find it very fulfilling.”
Rather than spend the next several decades pounding a keyboard in a cubicle, bored out of his mind, Tompkins decided to weigh his options and find a new path to personal fulfillment.
“My wife was a science teacher at Loganville High School and we talked about it,” Tompkins said. “And then a position opened up here.”
Accepting it as a sign of fate, Tompkins signed on as the new engineering technology teacher at LHS and has spent 11 years in the classroom since then, guiding students through the process of building, designing and planning various engineering projects.
And, 11 years after taking that leap of faith into a new career, Tompkins is seeing it bear fruit of another kind, as he was recently named Teacher of the Year for the Walton County School District for 2018.
“It was surprising,” Tompkins said. “There are a lot of good teachers in this building, alone, so it was very unexpected.”
But, to hear Tompkins’ students rave about it, long overdue.
“They were excited,” Tompkins said. “My wife posted the news on Facebook and students from previous years commented on it, telling me congratulations and talking about the difference I made on them. To see yourself having an impact like that was valuable.”
Today, Tompkins is a father of two — a daughter, 5, who attends Loganville Elementary School, and a son, 1.
Growing up in North Carolina, though, Tompkins dreamed of 1s and 0s on the computer screen and attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, for his undergraduate degree in IT.
Once he decided to make the transition into education, Tompkins enrolled at the University of Georgia to earn his master’s of education even as he jumped straight into the classroom due to his career experience in the field.
“We use cool tools, do a little bit of robotics, work on the computers and a lot more,” Tompkins said. “Engineering is very broad. I like to think I’m teaching skills they’ll use in their every day lives, even if they don’t go into an engineering or technology field. They are learning problem solving skills above all.”
Most of all, he said he enjoys guiding his students through the process of not only learning how to utilize the specific skill sets needed for his class, but the larger well of creativity inherent in them all to use it to the utmost.
“They get to make their own stuff in here,” Tompkins said. “You can see the personal creativity coming out.
“I like to provide opportunities for them and build connections with them. You have to care about the students and they’ll do their best for you.”
Tompkins said he’s grateful to all his fellow teachers and administrators for supporting him and allowing him the opportunity to become the Teacher of the Year.
“They make me better,” Tompkins said. “All I do is because of them.”
He’s most glad, though, to have discovered his calling, no matter how long it took to find.
“I feel like I’m making a difference here and having an impact on people’s lives,” Tompkins said. “I feel I’m in my own small way, making the world a better place.”