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Award surprises ELMS math teacher

East Lincoln Middle School teacher Darin Blalock lectures students during his math class. Blalock recently won the title of Region Six Middle School Teacher of the Year.
Jenny Walling / Lincoln Times-News

East Lincoln Middle School teacher Darin Blalock first learned he had become the Region Six Middle School Teacher of the Year when staff members burst excitedly into his classroom.
“Actually, I thought I was going to have another baby,” said Blalock who thought the whole school had heard the news before him.
“I’m 41 now, and I thought, ‘If I’m going to have another baby, I’m in trouble.’”
He soon found out the real reason so many people were congratulating him.
Blalock had competed for the title of Region Six Middle School Teacher of the Year against teachers from nine other counties, including Mecklenburg and Gaston.
“I was surprised,” said Blalock. “I thought maybe someone had rigged the voting.”
His students and fellow teachers were not surprised by Blalock’s win. They all describe the math teacher as an old fashioned, dedicated teacher.
“He’s a great guy, and we’re happy to have him,” said Mike Freeman, a teacher at the school.
“He’s always doing what he needs to do to get the kids ready for tests, ready for life.”
Blalock approaches class in the same way his teachers did when he was a student.
“I’m kind of old school,” he said.
He prefers to lecture and have students practice their work rather than play games or work in groups.
“The more they see it, the better they’re going to do the next time they see it,” said Blalock. “With math, you’ve got to do it to learn it.”
Blalock finds he is often stuck in his ways. He first came to East Lincoln Middle School as a student and later returned there for his first teaching job 17 years ago.
“I’m probably going to stay unless they run me off,” Blalock said.
Fellow teachers say in many ways he is the stereotypical math teacher.
“He’s thorough. He’s organized. He’s very structured,” said Carmen Hatley, a teacher at the school.
Blalock follows the same schedule for every class period, yet students claim not to be bored during his classes.
“He’s hilarious,” said Danielle Kelly, a student. “You never know what’s going to happen next.”
Blalock has been known to tell tall tales that people believe until he tells the final punch line.
“He’s got a real dry sense of humor,” said Freeman. “If you don’t pay attention, it will slide right by you.”
Although Blalock tries to make math fun, he doesn’t tolerate any misbehavior in his classroom.
“He puts his foot down every now and then to keep us honest,” said Steve Switek, a student.
Steve has a reason to like Blalock. Since the teacher has started tutoring him, his grades have risen from F’s to B’s.
Blalock shows similar dedication to the teams he coaches.
He could not come to March’s Board of Education Meeting in which he was honored because he had to drive an activity bus of middle school baseball players.
Students and teachers, however, have made sure that Blalock knows they’re proud of his new award.
“He worked really hard for it,” said Ashley Stephans, one of Blalock’s students. “He’s just a good teacher.”by Sarah Grano

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