Richard Bouton

McLean 6th Grade Center, Fort Worth schools

What he teaches: Math and science

How long he’s taught: Since 2001

Education: The University of Texas at Austin

Why he teaches: My real interest in teaching began when I was 12 years old and in middle school in San Antonio. I was fortunate enough to be inspired by my math and science teacher, Mr. Zimmerman. He challenged me to learn more than the official curriculum. He taught me a philosophy of working hard and self-responsibility. It is unbelievably rewarding to inspire students, to make them proud of their intelligence, to open their minds to new possibilities, to have them learn from their mistakes, to learn the benefits of hard work, and especially to relish becoming life-long learners.

How he connects with students: For me, connecting with my students is absolutely vital to my teaching process. How this connection is achieved is multi-faceted. Of course, I respect them as individuals. That includes getting to know them on many levels. The process begins when I gather every piece of available academic data and soft data from previous teachers. Before the school year begins, I know a lot about my students. Then as the school year proceeds I get to know them more on a personal level. I have very high expectations for them. I expect them to perform at a high level and work hard to meet my expectations. They see that, as a role model, I always work as hard or harder than I ask of them. I try to bring energy and excitement to every lesson. This is easier said than done, but I hope they are ‘wowed’ after the first day of school. We value mistakes in my classroom. A mistake is a super learning opportunity, and it indicates that a student tried on some level. No one in my classroom is criticized for making mistakes, including me. When I make a mistake, students are rewarded for pointing it out, and I admit to it. I never pretend to know the answer to a question that I do not know. They are encouraged and rewarded for finding the answer themselves and sharing it.  Also, usually within 24 hours, I have researched the answer. I try to be accessible emotionally. I do this by humanizing myself with self-deprecating humor and tales of my struggles through sixth grade. I make myself accessible for homework help. From the first day of class, my students have my cell phone number and can call/text me for help in the evenings or on weekends. Our school begins classes at 9:10, but I am available for help at school from 8 in the morning.  I also stay after school when needed. Students are offered many opportunities to excel by going beyond the curriculum. I sponsor an open-to-all math club that meets twice a week and studies more advanced mathematical issues. I coach a Whiz Quiz team that competes with other district middle schools in general academics. From the math club, I take students to three math competitions (UIL, MathCounts, and Problem Solving Competition) during the year. I trust my students and they trust me. I am honest and straightforward with them. In 15 years of giving students my cell phone and home number, I have never had a prank call from a student. I expect them to act more grownup in my class, and they do. In return, I treat them more like young adults. I genuinely care about my students. It is easy for them to see through a phony facade of caring. At the end of the year, I am always sad and thank them for allowing me the privilege of teaching them with tears in my eyes.

Why he’s a Top Teacher: The beloved Bouton is one big reason McLean 6th is so highly rated by parents.