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Changing lanes can’t slow down top middle school teacher

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By Christian Marnon

 He switched subjects and grade levels halfway through this past school year, yet Nick Cann still managed to take home Anderson County Middle School’s “Teacher of the Year” honor. 

Cann, who began teaching at the middle school in 2010, spent the first half of this school year as a sixth grade social studies teacher when principal Jeanna Rose approached him with a proposition. 

A long-term seventh grade math teacher resigned at the beginning of the year, and Rose needed someone to fill the void. 

“This spot came open and Mrs. Rose asked if would come fill it,” Cann said during an interview in his classroom earlier this month. “They didn’t have many good options and the kids needed somebody who knows math.”

It was a full-circle moment for Cann, who taught his first year ACMS as a seventh grade math teacher before transitioning into sixth grade math for five years, then six grade social studies for two years, before finally returning to seventh grade math midway through this year. 

Cann said he was willing to tackle the challenge due to not only his experience teaching math, but also his familiarity with the learning styles of his former sixth graders last year. 

“Since I was a sixth grade teacher last year, I already know most of these kids,” he said. “They needed someone to come in and hit the ground running, and they needed a math teacher who was experienced.” 

 

Natural mathematician 

A graduate of Anderson County High School, Cann said math always came easy. 

He was one of only 11 students to enroll in AP Calculus at ACHS, which eventually manifested in a civil engineering scholarship at the University of Kentucky. 

“I was in the highest level math you could take at UK,” said Cann, who also had to work for the department of transportation as a condition of his scholarship. 

“I worked two summers full time for the department of transportation in a lab, testing on asphalt and stuff like that,” he said. 

But something was amiss. With an engineer father who owns his own company, Cann said he couldn’t envision a lifetime of performing that work. 

“My dad works very hard and is very successful, but I knew what I was getting into,” said Cann. “I didn’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life.” 

Cann eventually switched his major to another math-centric field: accounting.

He nearly completed his degree, but again, the career didn’t seem right. 

“I was close to graduating and even interned for one year as an accountant,” he said. “I [said] I can’t do this for the next 30 years of my life.”

Education was nowhere on Cann’s radar until he volunteered to help with his little sister’s college basketball team at the middle school.

Alongside close friend and then ACMS girls’ basketball coach Clay Birdwhistell, Cann developed a passion for mentoring. 

Soon after, he started subbing at the school, a position that only required 60 hours of college credit. 

Still an accounting major at the time, Cann discovered through subbing that education was where he needed to be. 

“I changed my major,” he said. “I had two.”

Cann’s advisor said he needed two more years of education methods courses, but that was not an issue. 

“I prayed about it and talked to my family, who were supportive, about it,” he said. “It was two years for the rest of my life.”