Shelby Co. school custodian finds new career in the classroom

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 9:36 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A chance meeting with the head of teacher recruitment and engagement for Shelby County Schools (SCS) has changed the course for one former custodian.

About 350 new teachers across the SCS district took part in teacher orientation this week.

Monday, they’ll start in-service at their individual schools. One new hire got his start in the classroom in the most unusual way.

Christopher Knox first came to work at the SCS headquarters back in October as a part of the custodial/building staff.

“Anything that could possibly be done without having a certain level of expertise to it, I handled it,” said Knox.

He opened and closed buildings, arranged board rooms, and he replaced lots of light bulbs in the building. It just so happens Knox changing light bulbs would lead to a light bulb moment for Brian Ingram, the new director of talent acquisition induction and development at SCS.

“So, Mr. Knox I met while I was moving into my new office and the office hadn’t been used for a while,” said Ingram. “So, I had no lights. Nobody was in there and it was completely dark in there.”

Ingram is always looking for new talent and after learning the man changing his light bulb was actually a University of Memphis graduate, he immediately asked him if he’s ever thought about being a teacher.

Knox said he had never thought about becoming a teacher.

“I never did. I’ve had my degree for quite a while and it never crossed my mind, but I also didn’t know the qualifications to becoming a teacher,” said Knox who got his degree in organizational leadership in 2014.

Ingram says in Tennessee, you just need a bachelor’s degree in any area. The district will allow you to teach while going back to school to get your teaching certification.

“Next thing I know, he came back to me and said I just want to stop by and tell you this is going to be my last week here at the board because I’m headed off to go teach, and I think it’s just an amazing testament to the talent we have in the district,” said Ingram.

From changing light bulbs to the newest teacher at Craigmont Middle School, Knox will be teaching our next young, bright minds U.S. History.

Finding new teachers isn’t easy.

According to the Learning Policy Institute, for the first time ever, teacher demand exceeded supply for grades K-12 in the country’s public schools by more than 100,000 in 2019.

However, an SCS spokesperson says 96 percent of teacher vacancies at SCS have been filled.

Knox says he has no concerns about going his new career.

“I’m more excited than anything else, to be honest,” he said.

Knox will be given lots of support in his new role, including a one-on-one teacher mentoring program.

If you’re interested in becoming a teacher with Shelby County Schools, click here.

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