Circle science teacher is a finalist in 'Regis and Kelly' contest

At first, Circle Middle School science teacher Davis Laughlin was annoyed Friday with a peculiar schoolwide announcement urging teachers to turn on classroom televisions.

"Then I looked up, and Kelly Ripa was saying my name, and my face was on the screen," said Laughlin, who has taught middle-school science in Circle for about 30 years.

One student's family recently nominated Laughlin for the Top Teacher contest on "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Laughlin is one of 10 finalists nationwide. If he is one of the top five vote-getters by the end of tonight, he wins a trip to New York and an appearance on the morning show.

"It feels like it shouldn't happen to me," Laughlin said. "It's national TV. I'm a Kansas country boy."

Eighth-grade student Ridge Walker and his family nominated Laughlin as a Top Teacher.

"He really likes his students and does everything he can for them," Ridge said.

He said he appreciated how Laughlin switched plastic student chairs with plush teacher chairs to make students more comfortable when they had to take state exams this year.

Ridge's two older brothers also had Laughlin as a teacher, and his little brother probably will be in his class two years from now.

Ridge's mother, Becky Walker, said when she started substitute teaching at the school a few years ago, she "loved him better and better."

That's why when she was looking to nominate a friend for another competition on "Regis and Kelly," she thought of him when she ran across the teacher contest.

In the 250-student middle school in Benton, Laughlin has done a lot more than teach science. He has coached sports, been a counselor and announced football games.

In his spare time, he is a lay pastor at a small Methodist church in Rosalia.

Ridge and a friend started a "Mr. Laughlin is awesome" fan page on Facebook at the start of the school year. Posts from former students keep rolling in.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't like him or he's not their favorite teacher," Ridge said.

One former student who posted a comment to the fan page remembered his DJ skills at school dances.

"We make (all students) dance straight through," Laughlin said with a chuckle. "I play songs from my era. They like that, even if they say they don't."

Laughlin said the best part about the nomination is hearing from his former students, including one he sent an air conditioner to during a heat wave in Colorado this summer.

"Keeping a connection is the reward of the job," he said. "You get to see them grow up and become someone special."

Becky Walker said she knows Laughlin is at a disadvantage in the popular vote on "Regis and Kelly" because he's from a small town.

But this is the awesome Mr. Laughlin we're talking about.

"He always makes other people shine," Becky Walker said, her voice wavering with emotion. "I want to make his light shine."