If you ask students at River City Early College what Eric Lawson teaches, you’re not likely to hear about specific subjects. What you will hear is, “Mr. Lawson doesn’t do average.”
If you ask faculty and staff members what Eric Lawson teaches, you’ll likely hear “Mr. Lawson teaches kids that they matter.”
When Lawson himself was asked what he teaches, he said, “I teach Leadership. I teach students to apply life habits through the Leader In Me program.”
The Leader in Me initiative is a product of Franklin Covey Education and is centered around ingraining eight specific life habits in students to ensure each person’s future success. All students in the Vicksburg Warren School District are educated in the habits by a certified leadership instructor. The pinnacle of the program’s success for schools is being named a Lighthouse School. In March of this year, with Lawson at the helm of the program, River City Early College was the first high school in the world to earn that distinction.
For those reasons and more, Eric Lawson was chosen as RCEC’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021.
“Mr. Lawson was a natural choice for this honor,” said Kelda Bailess, lead teacher at RCEC. “He doesn’t just teach. He builds genuine relationships with our students. His lessons go beyond the walls of a classroom.”
Lawson has also been named one of the top five leadership teachers in the nation.
“The students of RCEC are fortunate to learn from Mr. Lawson’s modeling and leadership,” said Lonnie Moore, senior consultant with Franklin Covey Education. “His ‘butterfly effect’ will be felt for generations to come.”
Lawson was not always a teacher, but he has been an instrumental part of countless children’s lives. He owned Planet 4 Kidz, a local business aimed at caring for children in a safe, entertaining setting, from 2003 to 2016. In 2018, he returned to college and earned a master’s degree in teaching from Alcorn State University. He has been at RCEC since 2017.
Lawson said his favorite part of teaching is seeing his students conquer public and private victories as they mature as leaders.
“I love letting my students share their individual stories and learn about the uniqueness of their peers,” he said. “They need to be encouraged to see people as people. Everyone matters. Acceptance and kindness go a very long way.”
Lawson also teaches his students the importance of setting goals and working until they’re met. “I don’t believe in settling for average, and I don’t expect my students to, either,” he said.
“My ultimate goal is to be an agent of change in the lives of this generation,” he added.