Croyle encourages teachers to make a difference

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Former University of Alabama defensive end and All-American football player and founder of Big Oak Ranch John Croyle encouraged Covington County Schools employees to be the ones that students remember years later – the ones who truly make a difference.

Croyle said each year at Westbrook Christian’s graduation graduates give thank yous to those who have impacted their lives.

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John Croyle speaks at an event last year in Andalusia. He encouraged Covington County Schools employees to be the ones that students remember years later – the ones who truly make a difference. | File photo

Croyle said not one student says they want to thank Coach Thompson for teaching him history.

“They call out Mrs. Croyle because she cared about me,” he said. “They say, ‘She taught me so much.’”

Croyle urged teachers to consider what their reputations are.

“We can get a monkey with a computer to teach our kids,” he said. “A kid who wants to learn – that’s easy. What about the kids who are C-D students? Those who know nothing about failure?”

Croyle cautioned about being the teacher who is known as the jerk.

“Maybe you’re in your 29th year of teaching, and you’ve developed the attitude, I hope you get it, if not I’m going to fail you,” he said. “Some are in too deep. You have a job you don’t care about. Some have lost your first love. You’re just going through the motions.”

Croyle reminded all in attendance from the lunchroom lady to the custodian to the bus driver to the teacher that they are sent by God Almighty to change lives.

“If you don’t want to do that, get off the bus because we don’t want you,” he said.

Croyle encouraged teachers not to simply work for a paycheck.

“You were chosen for a boy named John or a girl named Mary,” he said. “Some of you coaches are the only man that boy is going to know.”

Croyle said that lunchroom workers sometimes make the biggest impact.

“Many lives are changed by the lunchroom lady because she gives the only hot meal a child has had since Friday,” he said.

Croyle also said there are teachers who are bullies.

“Are you that bus driver who says, ‘get on the bus, sit down and shut up?’”

He asked those present who were they imitating or were they ones worth imitating.

“Treat your students with respect,” he said. “Figure out what you were put on this Earth to do.”

Croyle said it’s an important accomplishment to look 20 years down the road and see that a former student turned out to be a good husband and that he’s helping rear two good children.

“You’re going to get tired,” he said. “But if you pass on 28 jerks to the next class, they’re going to compare you to other teachers. Take some defenses this year. Kids walk into your class who are bleeding internally.”

When he takes children to live on his ranch, Croyle said that he tells them four things.  “I tell them I love you, that I will never lie to you, I’ll stick with you until you are grown up and on your own, and then I tell them that there are rules – don’t break them.”

Croyle shared his story with those gathered.

He said he lost his sister in a bizarre accident in which she was crushed by a tombstone at a funeral when he was 5.

Fast forward to the third grade and Croyle said he had a Boston terrier that was his best friend and he was playing roughly with it and his father told him he would give it away if he didn’t take care of it.

In a moment on hysteria, John clawed his face before his father stopped him.

He went to class the next day and his teacher saw something was wrong.

She dismissed her class and placed him in her lap and simply rocked him.

“She never said a word,” he said. “Greatness doesn’t have to talk. There are others who have changed my life.”

Croyle said he takes care of the abused and neglected children at Big Oak Ranch because Mrs. Sims loved him.

And so far 2,000 children have made their way through Big Oak Ranch since 1974.