Catch you later, Helms
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“It’s always catch you later, never goodbye.”
This phrase has been heard multiple times coming from Billy Helms, a beloved social studies teacher and girls soccer coach at Robinson, who recently took a social studies position at Gaither High School. His last day at Robinson will be this Thursday, Feb. 8.
Helms has been teaching and coaching the girls soccer team at Robinson since 2009, starting as a substitute for a year until he was offered a full time position in 2010. His decision to take a position at Gaither, his alma mater, is simply due to the fact that he will be closer to home.
“I knew that when I came here to Robinson, I eventually needed to get near my end of town, near Carollwood,” Helms said. His daughter, who is about to enter the sixth grade, goes to school and dances close to Gaither.
“Locality, and just being in the area as my daughters getting into junior high and high school, it just makes sense for me to get closer to home at this point,” Helms said.
It was never actually Helms’s full intention to stay at Robinson for as long as he did. He planned on coming to Robinson to coach soccer, teach social studies for a little bit and then move closer to home. Though, after experiencing Robinson in all of its glory, he found it hard to part ways.
“I’ve actually come to love Robinson High School, not only the students, but I found some really good friends here as teachers,” Helms said. “It kind of hooked me. And now I just thought okay, it’s time to move. It’s time to move on. It is bittersweet, that is for sure.”
As of now, Helms has no plans at coaching soccer at Gaither, though it is something he’d like to do. His last game coaching at Robinson was Tuesday, Feb. 6 in the regional quarterfinal match. To say it’s something he’ll miss is an understatement.
“It is one of my passions, it’s a big time passion of mine,” Helms said. “I would love to eventually coach at Gaither, where I played and where I went to school. That would be the bee’s knees.”
Since Helms has been the coach, he has arguably transformed the girls soccer program, helping them become more credible than they have been in years past. In 2016, Helms led the team to a historic season, advancing to the regional finals. He will continue to support the Robinson team.
“Pounding my chest here, but I’ve helped bring respectability to this soccer program, and I still have responsibility to continue to support that team, if it’s from the sideline, or if it’s from the stands,” Helms said.
Helms has a reputation of being a “class clown” teacher at Robinson, which makes him quite popular among teachers, students and players. Both his teaching and coaching methods have created lasting impressions on Robinson alumni.
“Helms made Robinson a home for me. His nicknames and made up words and tendency to walk into [my] calculus class while Saunders is still teaching just to say ‘hi’ made high school a lot more fun,” Sarah Jennewein (‘17), Dartmouth freshman and former captain of the Robinson girls soccer team, said. “I selfishly wish Helms were staying at Robinson like all of the other girls on the team do, but I know he has close ties with Gaither and will be happy and successful there.”
Helms has also made connections with teachers all over Robinson, especially in the social studies department. Robinson teacher Shawn Taylor, and former head football coach who resigned earlier this year, is oftentimes found with Helms, talking and joking around. They have formed a solid friendship with each other, actively hanging out outside of their teaching jobs.
“He’s a really good friend and coworker. He’s been there for a lot of advice and all that stuff over the years,” Taylor said. “He’s a very glass is half full kind of guy, which is refreshing because education is a tough thing to do, it’s easy to get tired and be worn out. His attitude about everything is always good. He’s going to be missed.”
As much as Helms has made an impact on others lives, students and teachers around Robinson have made the same impact on him. He has found himself learning a lot from people all around the school, and the mark they have made on him as a teacher is indelible.
“Coach Taylor, Big Montero (Tomas Montero), Little Montero (Manuel Montero), Moose (Mousseau), McCray, there’s a lot of teachers out here that have helped me along in social studies, made me become a better teacher. Yes, you teach out of a book, but you also teach with passion, like you do on the field because most of us coaches, you teach with passion in the classroom, and it’s okay to show your personality as a teacher. When you don’t, you miss out on a connection that you could have with that student,” Helms said. “That’s what a lot of these teachers showed me, Mark Elliot too, is that you can have a personality in your classroom, it doesn’t have to be so vanilla. One thing it’s never been in my classroom is vanilla. I don’t want it to be. I want students to come in here and say ‘dang it the desks are changed again’, or ‘we got new seats again’, you know we have to change. And hopefully I can pass that on to these new students over at Gaither.”
Helms is prepared to teach a new group of students, and will try to affect Gaither as much as he affected Robinson.
“Talking to students, and knowing how much I impacted them, that’s why we do it, what we do as teachers,” Helms said. ‘We are here to impact people. Even if it’s a smile, it’s a kind word or it’s telling a stupid story that everyone’s heard a thousand times.”
Helms will be attending this years graduation rehearsal and graduation per his request to Bhoolai. Although his (occasionally repeated) stories and bright outlook will certainly be widely missed from Robinson, he is looking forward to starting at Gaither. However, he’ll never forget the place that quickly became a home for him, as he remembers to mention the phrase “once a knight, always a knight.”