The St. Charles Community College Foundation has selected James Hall III, a sixth grade science teacher at Orchard Farm Middle School, to receive the college’s 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award will be presented at the 23rd annual SCC commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14, in the College Center on campus.
Hall’s passion for teaching was ignited during a physics class at SCC, and today Hall is focused on making an impact on his students – both in the way they understand science, and in the way they view their own career potential.
“At the middle school level, there are so many teachable moments, and I try to make things relevant,” Hall said. “For example, after the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we monitored the aftershocks using a smart phone app.”
Hall said he also checks out telescopes to students so they have an opportunity to experience the wonder of science first-hand, and that he keeps a class pet, a bearded dragon lizard, to make learning fun for students.
When Hall first decided to go back to school at age 29, he was on a path to get a degree in engineering. A scholarship from SCC allowed him to quit his job as a test cell operator on jet engines and go to school full-time. Hall said that had it not been for SCC, college would not have been an option.
It was a “mind-expanding moment” he had during a physics class at SCC that made Hall realize his purpose, and change his major from pre-engineering to education. “My teacher, Stacey Thater, had the ability to see the big picture and the interconnectedness of science with the physical world – a trait we both share,” said Hall. "He inspired me to become a teacher so that I could help students demystify the physical world around them and impact them in the same way that Mr. Thater affected me."
“Hall is one of the most humble and intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of teaching,” said Stacey Thater, SCC science instructor. “He would have easily progressed to his engineering degree and a very lucrative career, but he wanted to do something with his education that would give back to the community, and he decided to become a teacher.”
Hall also gives credit to Will Griffin, SCC professor of anthropology, for his influence. “Mr. Griffin’s cultural anthropology class altered the framework with which I see the world, and created a desire in me to serve the local community and society.”
After attending SCC, Hall transferred to Lindenwood University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in education in 2008. In addition to teaching at Orchard Farm Middle School, Hall coordinates the sixth grade participation in the annual science fair and coaches seventh grade girls basketball.
Hall, now 36, is a graduate of Fort Zumwalt North High School. He and his wife live in St. Charles, Mo.
Hall will receive the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award from Michael Lissner, president of the SCC Foundation Board. The Foundation initiated the award in 2006 and solicits nominations from the community.