Wade King

#myJourney -- Wade King didn’t let a traumatic childhood define him. Instead, he has used it to inspire others.

King graduated from Anderson University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and later received a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership. He currently teaches math for grades 5 and 6, current events for grades 6 and 7, and ancient civilization for grade 8 at Ron Clark Academy (RCA) in Atlanta.

To instill responsibility, King implements a “no excuses” policy. “If a student comes in and says he couldn’t get this homework done, I say, ‘If I could have done it, you can too,’” said King, referring to the abuse, neglect, and homelessness that began at birth. At age two, a grandmother took him in, but when she died a few years later, he lived with an aunt and uncle. When they split up, he stayed with his uncle, who spent his time in bars and on solo vacations, leaving his sixth-grade nephew to fend for himself. Eventually homeless, King slept in the park and on friends’ couches. Asthmatic, he resorted to stealing inhalers from a pharmacy until caught. However, the pharmacist’s kindness—he insisted on paying for whatever inhalers the boy would need—strengthened a faith that had been sorely tested.

So did high school, where King found respite in the classroom and on the wrestling team. When some teammates invited him to a Bible study, said King, “I went and became saved. I found my ‘why,’ my purpose. I found that Jesus places people in your life to be there for you.”

His college experience was similar.

“What Anderson University poured into us, one of the foundations of the education department, is the light you can be for others,” he said. He felt that most powerfully with his wrestling coach, Dock Kelly. “One time I was struggling so bad with life in general, working all these jobs,” said King. “Dock had no clue what was going on. But I asked him, ‘Will you pray with me?’ He stopped everything he was doing and brought me to the side and prayed over me.”

His education studies helped King recognize his ability to connect with students himself. “Wade was always very friendly and very open to students to listen to them,” said Dr. Larry Knighton, an assistant professor of education at AU. “I think that’s one of the things that made him so successful. One thing we talk about in education classes is that you need to get to know your students. Many times the things they don’t tell you are as important as the things they do. Wade was very in tune to that.”

King also loves surprising students with creative lesson plans. Recently, he taught about the United Nations’ approach to communicable diseases by staging a zombie apocalypse, decorating his classroom with a tent, dry ice fog, blue and green lights, and a hazmat suit with a breathing mask—all set to music from the TV show The Walking Dead. During that lesson, hundreds of educators were visiting RCA. Working with these educators to help them become better teachers is one of his job duties that King relishes. “There’s no better stage with education at this moment than the Ron Clark Academy,” said King. “It’s a training facility and a school, and thousands of educators visit us. When you’re given a platform and are a Christian, you need to share your faith with people. I do it through example, work, and song. Being able to conduct workshops, I have found a way to explain my ‘why.’”