LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Thomas Keith

Position: Math Teacher
School: Carrollton High School
School District: Carrollton City Schools
City, State: Carrollton, GA

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Thomas Keith was nominated by his colleague, Laurie Fleck

Mr. Keith's personal journey is what he attributes to his success as a teacher. Having grown up in a single parent, poverty stricken home and witnessing the daily struggles of family members and neighbors due to lack of education, Mr. Keith recognized the important of an education early on. Relatives often spoke of getting an education, but did not or could not articulate its importance to having a successful future. Their background excluded higher education, so they stressed finishing high school to prepare for work in industry. 

Mr. Keith has said his education came from teachers, coaches, and principals. These pivotal role models took him in, a student considered “at-risk” by most, and encouraged him to dream of a brighter world. They reached out to a child who didn't know his potential, and gave him the guidance and advice on how to cultivate what they saw. These same mentors challenged him to dream big and see the possibilities. Being the first in his family to attend college, Mr. Keith realized there was more to life than factory work. 

As a teacher, his personal journey is a constant reminder that students come from various walks of life. Mr. Keith is always mindful that teaching is a lifestyle that extends beyond classroom walls and school hours. He routinely can be found visiting students, providing encouragement, and in the In-School Suspension Classroom during his planning period. When asked why he does this, he states that he does so because someone did the same for him.

Mr. Keith's teacher hat holds many titles such as advisor, provider, friend, father figure, to name a few. Recognizing that not all of his students have the desire to attend college, he encourages them to pursue areas that interest them, whether it be entrepreneur, hair stylist, plant supervisor or welder, as long as it provides a better life on the right path. 

At various times, Mr. Keith says he wonders how hopeless he must have seemed to people who mentored him as a child.  They saw potential in him and did not give up, even when he did not give his best. Because of their persistence, Mr. Keith tries to recognize every achievement in his students, no matter how big or small. He also provides support, both inside and outside of the classroom. At the start of every class, Mr. Keith gives his class a “Daily Nugget” of life stories that allow his students to see and hear his success story, despite a background similar to many of theirs. 

Mr. Keith feels his greatest contributing factor to teaching is his ability to relate to all types of kids on various levels. He allows them to see that situations of poverty, single parent homes, drugs, and abuse do not have to define them. He routinely tells his students, "We may look different, come from different backgrounds and deal with varying problems, but inside we are all the same; we have feelings, want to feel valued and for someone to care about us." 

Mr. Keith was a student athlete and graduate of Central Michigan University, and later received his Masters in Education from University of West Georgia. In addition to serving as a leader in the classroom, Mr. Keith serves as a leader to peers as the Algebra Support Lead Teacher, and a New Teacher Mentor at Carrollton High School. He has also served as a mentor for F.U.T.U.R.E, which stands for Fellows United To Uplift and Reshape Each Other.  Mr. Keith has received the Carrollton High School Teacher of The Year in 2017, and the Golden Apple Award in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 for his dedication and heartfelt commitment to meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners. He was also awarded Carrollton High School Teacher of the Month in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and Basketball Region Assistant Coach Of The Year in 2015 and 2016.

Mr. Keith's educational philosophy is demonstrated in his teaching style, and some may say that his teaching style is a bit eccentric.

"It isn't uncommon to hear him teaching from the other end of the hall, but when you walk in his classroom, the environment is electrified and his students are engaged," Fleck said. "He believes in group discussions and students cultivating their own ideas, as they begin to unwrap misunderstood layers of math. His classroom is student-driven, and he commonly uses humor to engage his students. Mr. Keith requires his students to be engaged so that they always feel they are included and represented in all conversations surrounding their education."

“You can’t go wrong when you hire someone like Thomas Keith," said David Brooks, CHS principal. "This guy is special. He is a great motivator and works hard to develop relationships with all kids.”

Mr. Keith teaches coordinate algebra, which is considered one of the most challenging courses for many high school students. His loud-but-loving, enthusiastic style resonates with all students, but especially students who struggle with math. On the Georgia Milestones statewide testing platform, Mr. Keith’s coordinate algebra students outperformed the state average all three years the test has been administered.

"Whether inside or outside the classroom, Thomas Keith is a true LifeChanger at Carrollton High School and in his broader community," Fleck said. 

Mr. Keith says "I always teach my kids the power of one,” referring not to a mathematical exponent but to the individual sense of responsibility and commitment.

“All I want to do is sow a seed, and I tell my kids, I don’t know how long when the water hits the seed, but I know one thing – the seeds that I sow into those kids will sprout up and bloom into a flower," said Keith.

Comments (21)

Christy Johnson Posted over a year ago

I met Red when he was in high school at Heard County Comprehensive High School in Franklin, Georgia. Then I was a 7th grade writing teacher at his school. In high school, he was a leader inside and outside of the classroom, as well as on the basketball court and football field. Red's success from high school to college to his teaching career has been remarkable. I am fortunate to know Red, and so are many others' whose lives he touched. Red defines the term "busy" because he is always on the go with coaching, visiting, and making a difference to anyone he crosses paths with wherever he goes.

Nichole Chetti-Bush Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith has a great passion for teaching and the success of his students! He truly is a life changer! His students' lives are changed for the better by simply having him in their lives. I am proud to say I know and work with the amazing Coach Keith!

Tamyra Jackson Posted over a year ago

A great candidate. The level of passion he has for teaching and mentoring the youth is unmatched! A definite LIFE CHANGER!

Joseph Turner Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is a statistical anomaly, and a fantastic example of how potential, effort and choices impact life. As a teacher and a coach,he uses his story and his passions to create a broad and powerful impact with his students.

Robin O'Neal Posted over a year ago

I had the honor and privilege of working alongside Coach Keith as his co-teacher for three years. I got to witness first-hand the impact he had on many kids' lives as well as mine. We worked hard everyday, but our class felt more like family than school, as that is the kind of atmosphere he creates. He has a passion for math, but an even bigger passion for kids. His story connects to most of the kids he teaches and he is living proof you can rise above your circumstances when you set goals and work hard.

Kristae Lawler Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is one of the most awesome teachers I have ever had the privilege to be around. The way he interacts with his students and the way he teaches is so unique...there isn't another teacher anywhere like him! He can relate to any student, no matter what their background. You can tell he truly loves his job! His teaching also goes beyond the classroom. As a football coach and mentor to so many students, we are truly blessed to have him as part of CHS!!

Pat Reynolds Posted over a year ago

One word for Coach Keith: DYNAMIC!! Loves what does and makes a difference the the lives of his students!

Laura Rader Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is an amazing teacher! He has the ability to reach his students and ensure that they understand the material he is teaching, and his real world examples allow the students to relate the material to themselves. On the field, court, and in the classroom, Coach Keith has such a positive impact on his students and is definitely a Life Changer!

Shanon Melson Posted over a year ago

Red is well known at Carrollton City Schools for his charisma and positive outlook on life! The kids love him and appreciate his ability to accept all and reach students where they are and get them where they need to be! He has always been motivational by sharing how hard work and determination have gotten him to where he is today. His family is a special family and he is the rock for them as well as many others in our community.

Rosie Grubbs Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of working with Coach Keith these past two years since transferring to CHS. We have many mutual students and have been to many meetings together. He is not just teaching these kids math; he tries to help teach kids life skills and life lessons. He truly is a mentor to many, and I love hearing the kids talk about him. He is very entertaining, and I can see why kids love him so much! Coach Keith works to build relationships with his students, then he does all he can to help them succeed while they are in his classroom. Thomas Keith is a true life changer, and we are lucky to have him at CHS!

Linda Pranski Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith reaches students in the classroom, on the football field and in their personal lives. He is able to connect with students and be very direct, yet never alienate them. Students, teachers, and staff have the utmost respect for Coach Keith! His presence at CHS is very palpable; Coach Keith is a life changer!

Laura Malmquist Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is definitely a Life Changer! He makes such a positive impact on his students and his colleagues. His high expectations for all students coupled with love and support to meet those expectations truly make a difference. Coach Keith works hard everyday to Change Lives!

Seth Caldwell Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is one of the most loving and caring teachers that I have had the privilege to work with in my career. His teaching and mentoring reach far beyond the classroom and he leaves a positive, lifelong impact on not just his students, but on every individual that he meets at Carrollton. He is truly an inspiration!

Kym Hilbert Posted over a year ago

Red is amazing! Is voice has the available to capture the attention everyone that is in his presence. His ability to relate his real life experiences to his math lessons makes the subject more relatable to his students. He is definitely a Life Changer.

Mike Mason Posted over a year ago

It’s time to get real; Coach Keith is a life changer for his students. He has the unique ability to meet his students where they are at and move them forward in life. He uses a real life approach to teach math and life skills to his students. His impact on Carrollton high school is felt and heard by many student and teachers.

Karen Wild Posted over a year ago

WOW! This man is the epitome of Life Changer. His story speaks to his ability to change and his work with students translates his experience to that of support for others. He is kind, humorous and has high expectations for students. The achievement data from the students he serves screams of his successful support of students.

Josefina Washington Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is a fantastic teacher, a positive role model, and overall great person.

Tim Hawig Posted over a year ago

I love sitting in a meeting with Coach Keith as we discuss helping students meet expectations and keep on a good path. Coach is direct and honest and has a personal touch with students, parents and his fellow peers. It's fun to work with him as he wants to change the culture of the student to be the most successful situation available.

Denise Johnson Posted over a year ago

Great candidate!

Jamie Sexton Posted over a year ago

As Coach Keith's co-teacher, it is a privilege and a joy to teach along side of him. Not only does he instill hope and wisdom into the students' lives, but into mine as well. On a daily basis, he is constantly reminding the students to value themselves more than they do because they are the only ones that can change the situation they are in. We teach high poverty students and students who come from single-parent homes and even some who don't even live with their parents. With Coach Keith being able to relate so much to them from personal experience, he stresses the importance of education and how much of an impact it can have on their lives. Coach Keith is the definition of a life-changer and represents this award through and through.

Heather Morrison Posted over a year ago

Coach Keith is a wonderful teacher and mentor to all students at Carrollton High School. Coach Keith's passion and love of teaching is evident in everything he does from the classroom to the football field and beyond.