Bill Farley’s teachers positively influenced him when he was growing up. He hopes he does the same with his math students.

“You always have kids that are going to have bad days or things like that,” said Farley, who has taught at Ellison High School since its opening in 1978. “A lot of times you can help them get through that and not have it escalate.”

Farley’s teaching method was reinforced Monday during the Killeen Independent School District’s annual professional development day at Ellison’s auditorium. About 475 Killeen ISD teachers and administrators listened to guest speaker Eric Cupp encourage them to focus on the needs of students who face personal challenges and struggle academically.

Cupp has given seminars at Killeen ISD the past three years.

“I like his soft approach to things,” said Sandra Smith, Ellison’s special education coordinator.

Smith, who has worked at Ellison for 27 years, said Cupp reminds teachers that every student has his or her own set of needs, and although dealing with those needs can be hard, it’s possible.

“We have a lot of students that are very volatile and have very different needs than the general population,” Smith said. “It’s important for us to know and recognize those differences and be able to back off and look at things through different eyes.”

Floristine Gray, an assistant principal at Ellison, said it’s important to see things from a student’s perspective.

“Oftentimes, when students get (in trouble), teachers would rather talk to them. ... If you give them a little time by themselves, they work it out and think, ‘I don’t even know why I did that in the first place,’” Gray said. “They want to be a person, and sometimes we forget that they are people.”

Farley, who started teaching at Ellison when he was 22 years old, agrees. After nearly four decades at Ellison, he’s seen the school change in size and concepts; he’s seen programs come and go. But one ideal remained the same.

“There’s got to be that power balance there,” he said. “Not only are we the ones that are supposed to be teaching them, they’re the ones that are supposed to be learning and if you’re not concerned about them, why should they be concerned about what you’re trying to teach them?”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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