One of our off-campus poster children

briansimsNever Too Late

Sevierville resident Brian Sims only completed one year of college and spent 14 years working in restaurant management.  In 2000 he quit the business and began working as a special education teacher’s assistant within the Sevier County school system, and later, he began driving a school bus route for special education students.

He admits that he let his age be an excuse for not going back to college to earn a degree.

“I told people I was too old to go to college,” said Sims, a special education teacher at Seymour High School.  “But I remember someone saying to me, ‘Brian, you are going to turn 40, and you can do it with a degree or not, but you are going to turn 40 either way.’

“So, why not, I thought.”

In 2001, Sims, then in his mid-30s, began his journey toward a college degree and enrolled at East Tennessee State University in the special education program. His passion for teaching students with special needs came from his heart. Not only did he work as a teaching assistant, but his son Nick, now 25, was diagnosed with Autism just a few months shy of his third birthday.  Sims also has a daughter, Brittany, 27.

“I went back to school and haven’t stopped,” laughed Sims, now 50, who this past Saturday received his doctorate in education degree from ETSU.  “My son has had some excellent teachers, and my goal has been to take the things I have learned from them and put that into one person.”

When Sims went back to school in 2001, he was among an inaugural group of students to enroll in a new baccalaureate completion program in special education offered by ETSU in Sevierville.  He also finished his master’s and doctoral programs through cohort programs, and because his classes were taught in Sevierville or online, he was not required to travel to Johnson City.

“A lot of people encouraged me to get my degree and they have been very supportive all this time,” said Sims, who praised his wife and children along with special education supervisor Dr. Sandy Enloe, who told Sims about the ETSU cohort and encouraged him to apply, and school system director Dr. Jack Parton, who helped start the cohort.

Nine­­­­­­­­­ years later, Sims continues to start his day driving a school bus.


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