Make your home page

Shelby County teacher sprints to success

Golden Apple: Winner sprints to success in Shelby County

WALDRON, Ind. (WISH) — WISH-TV celebrates extraordinary teachers in central Indiana with the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award. It comes with a trophy, a school supply shopping spree to Teachers’ Treasures, and a surprise visit from the News 8 team with the help of Hensley Legal Group.

This month’s winner is Mr. Daymon Higdon from Waldron Junior-Senior High School. He goes by DJ and went from track star to star teacher in the district in a dash.

While life is a marathon, not a sprint, for Mr. Higdon, finding a home in the Shelby Eastern School District happened pretty fast.

“There he is; he even had a little bit of a beard back then,” Principal Mark Shadiow said, pointing to Mr. Higdon from his own high school years. “He’s been here, and I would say he is a lifer.”

Mr. Higdon went to the school where he now teaches. Shadiow says he hired him to coach cross country and track and field right after graduation about a decade ago.

Shadiow says this teacher has success in the classroom and coaching because “he just takes a genuine interest” in students at the school.

“He is here all the time — whether he is coaching or not. He works the concessions Saturday nights at the basketball games,” Shadiow told News 8.

Kim Williams taught Mr. Higdon in first grade and says he has coached all three of her boys.

“We always say it takes a village to raise your kids, and everybody needs a DJ in their village to raise their kids,” Williams said.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Higdon spent years as an instructor’s assistant and bus driver in the elementary school and went to college at night.

“He is phenomenal. He is able to make those connections. Even as a first-year teacher, he wants those kids to be successful and is willing to do whatever he can to get those kids to be successful,” Williams added.

Lezlie Stocklan, Mr. Higdon’s mentor, told News 8, “He takes that coaching aspect and applies it in the classroom and then takes his teacher side and applies it to his athletes, too.”

Stocklan says Mr. Higdon is already winning in his first year teaching sixth-grade math and computer science.

“He’s really great at finding what they like and taking that and running with it,” Stocklan said.

Pun intended! In fact, he has students sprinting to his classroom.

“He’s very fun, outgoing, tries to make it easier to learn,” said 11-year-old Noah Leap.

Noah and 11-year-old Gracie Walker are in Mr. Higdon’s sixth-grade class.

“He is very nice to every student — he cares for everyone,” Gracie said. “He’s like, really good. He’s funny, and he always helps us keep a positive mindset.”

That’s what his track athletes say keeps them so motivated to run. 

“I was going to give it a try freshman year because he was my coach,” said freshman Avery Haehl. “He is super respectful and super kind, and he is like that with everybody — he just listens and understands each kid and how they are different in their own ways.”

He can be fun, yet serious, and shows respect to students, no matter their age or ability.

“Helping students or helping the janitor — he is just the kindest person I have ever met,” Avery said.

For Mr. Higdon, this district is family. That’s why his family nominated him for the Golden Apple Award.

“The hours that he has spent here, just endless time and hours, and he loves it. This is his life,” said Carolyn Buckler. “He loves the kids – he just has such a heart for them and wants them to learn.”

Buckler is Mr. Higdon’s aunt and nominated him for the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award.

“I was just so excited – I knew that he could do it,” Buckler said. “He’s going to be shocked about this. He is just very humble.”

So, the News 8 team surprised Mr. Higdon in his own classroom. 

“I’m a little shocked, a little surprised,” Mr. Higdon replied. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I feel honored, this is special.”

After watching a video message from fellow staff, students, and family, Mr. Higdon was emotional.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry… It didn’t quite work out that way. But – I appreciate it, really appreciate it,” Mr. Higdon said.

When asked what keeps him motivated to care about every student, Mr. Higdon said, “I want to be the teacher and coach I wish I would have had when I was a kid. Just trying to create a better thing for the next generation.”

Now, he hopes he can motivate others to do the same thing. 

“Just try to make a difference where you can and do what you can to make someone else’s life better,” Mr. Higdon said.

Because teaching really is a marathon. Winning isn’t measured by speed or strength, it comes down to inspiring students to be their best success in this race of life.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click here.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.