After learning that he was named the 2009 North Mecklenburg High teacher of the year, civics and economics teacher Jimmy Means said he felt proud but very humble.
"I can't emphasize enough that there are other teachers that are far worthier than I would consider myself," he said. "Maybe it was just a little bit of luck."
Means, 41, must have done something right to impress North Meck students and fellow faculty members, who selected him for the honor from the school's more than 160 staff members.
Means, who also teaches Advanced Placement human geography, characterized his style as a realistic one in which he will not candy coat what he's teaching.
Means said he tries to make his classes as fun as possible for his more than 100 students each semester. He explained that in his 18 years as a teacher he's learned that students have fun and enjoy classes that apply real-world situations.
"I try to tie in what I'm teaching as much to their personal lives as possible so they understand why we're teaching it," said Means.
The Mooresville resident got his start at a Kentucky middle school after getting his teaching certificate from Eastern Kentucky University in 1991.
After four years, he decided to move up to high school because older students seemed to better understand the his concepts.
"You have to put up with a lot of immaturity in middle school, but I think the high school kids understand a lot better what you expect of them," said Means.
After six years of teaching in the Bluegrass State, Means decided to move to North Carolina, where his new bride's sister lived. Means taught at Mooresville High for a couple of years until he got his current position at North Meck a decade ago.
When he enrolled at Union College in Kentucky, he aspired to join the military. But that dream ended after Means had to have surgery on his right eye, which disqualified him from military service.
After one day going along with a friend who was student teaching, Means discovered an interest in education.
"I thought, 'this looks like a really good career; you'll get to work with kids and coach,'" said Means.
Coaching was important to Means. He was a member of the Union College football squad, playing offensive lineman.
Means said that his coaches - both in high school and college - had a "huge role" in his life, and he knew that if he went into teaching he could have that same impact on young people's lives.
"To see that kid graduate and walk across that stage knowing that you played a role in that is a major accomplishment," Means said.
Means, who has been coaching since he started teaching, is an assistant coach position at Davidson College. He has coached the linebackers for the last four seasons.
Means admitted that his schedule - which starts at at school at 6:45 a.m. and doesn't end sometimes until after 7 p.m. when he's coaching - affects his family life.
But with what he described as a "strong and supportive family," Means said he's been able to do it.
He added that his wife, Diane, works just as hard serving as the Ada Jenkins Center's after-school program director. Means said that spending time with his wife and his two children, Makayla and Holden, is his favorite part of the day.