On a pair of yellow school buses, teachers new to the Neosho School District, Neosho Christian Schools, Crowder College and Ozark Christian Schools participated in the 52nd annual New Teacher Tour this week, hosted by the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Missouri Walnut.

Around 70 educators were treated to stops at many Neosho locations including the Newton County Historical Park, Neosho National Fish Hatchery, Newton County Courthouse, Neosho-Newton County Library, and Neosho Freeman Family YMCA. Tour guides Dr. Roy Shaver and Tim Booyer rode along, one on each bus to provide some local history and flavor.

When the group arrived at Crowder College, they were greeted by Chamber of Commerce members, Crowder staff, Neosho District personnel and others, including Rowdy, the Crowder College Roughrider Mascot and Willy, the Neosho High School mascot. The Neosho Fight Song played as the crowd waved pom-poms, held signs and cheered.

Lunch on the Crowder Campus was provided by Arvest Bank, Community Bank & Trust, Family Dentistry of Neosho, First Community Bank, Four States Dental Care, Harris Insurance Agency, Lyerla Heating & Air, Mitchell's Drug Stores, Scholastic, Spring Hill Assisted Living, Southwest Missouri Bank, and US Bank.

“The purpose of the New Teacher Tour is to welcome the new teachers and to help familiarize them with our community. And each year is even bigger than the last!” Ashley Siler, Director of Communication & Membership Development at the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “Many of these teachers are not only new to the district but new to Neosho as well. By participating in the tour, they will gain useful information about the history of Neosho as well as local resources that will help them both in and out of the classroom.

Following lunch and a #TeachNeosho portion of the program in which several businesses were invited to share what their business is and how it can work with the schools.

TeeJay "Bad Newz" Britton, Joplin, offered the prayer before the meal and was this year's featured speaker. Britton is a Pro MMA Fighter and the #18th ranked Pro Men’s Featherweight in Kansas & Missouri. Britton has strong ties to Southwest Missouri as a former Missouri Southern Lion as well as a youth minister. He uses his past struggles as a way to inspire others and hopes to lead troubled youth out of the darkness and into a brighter place. He grew up in Poplar Bluff.

His life changed for the better because of a teacher, who one day turned his desk around to face the class. Britton first thought he was being punished until his teacher explained.

"'You are a very passionate young man. I don't want you to ever lose the passion in what you do. Someday, you're going to speak to people and you're going to change lives'," he said, quoting the teacher who changed his life. "You don't know where I'm from, you've never been to my neighborhood, you don't understand the things I've been through, you've never had a sleepless night, you never didn't have enough to eat or heard your mama and dad crying because they can't feed you so you'll never understand like that. She said "I can change your mind. You're passionate.""

Today, he credits that teacher as well as his father for seeing his passion and urging him to remain passionate. At the luncheon, Britton encouraged teachers to reach out to their students.

"There are a lot of TeeJays out there who need you guys - it doesn't matter where live or who you are. You guys help change our lives, you change the world. I'm so thankful for what you guys do. You may the only light, the only smile that they see."

Britton says he's the father of five and that being a husband, a father, having a family is his greatest accomplishment. He offered a prayer for all the teachers and ended by saying:

"It's really hard to find good role models, hard to find good teachers. Thank you for the opportunity to come and speak to you today."

Each teacher received a gift bag filled with a wide variety of items donated by local businesses, made possible by Missouri Walnut. More than 25 local businesses provided items. They also were gifted with another bag with books and other items for classroom use from Scholastic.

Neosho welcomes all the new educators to the community.