Kansas man loses 275 pounds and wins major teaching award

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LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Jeff Baxter has Leavenworth High School students thinking about literature and life.

"Have you ever thought about reason being a monster?  A monster?" Baxter asked his students.

He says he loves the aha moments that happen in the classroom.  Baxter had his own aha moment four years ago.  He weighed 465 pounds.  His knees hurt so much that he couldn't walk up an incline with family, including a grandson.

"I'm sure I had tears in my eyes, but I can remember saying this cannot be my life with grandchildren.  This cannot be my life with my grandkids," recalled Baxter.

Because he was morbidly obese, his doctor recommended weight loss surgery. He had the gastric sleeve procedure which reduced the size of his stomach by two-thirds.

Baxter's daughter set him straight about surgery.

"She said, 'Dad, it's a tool. You need to understand it's just a tool. There are people that put all the weight back on,'" he said.

Baxter's wife, who is also a teacher, believed he wouldn't let that happen.

"Because once he makes a decision to do something and he's passionate about it, he does it and he sticks with it," said Connie Baxter.

Has he ever.  He moves constantly in the classroom, and climbs the stairs at school at least 10 times a day.  He goes on walks every day.  He takes 8,000 steps altogether compared to 500 before.

He eats sensibly five times a day, eating no food after 6 p.m.  When Baxter's weight ballooned, he was eating 5,000 calories every evening.

The man who weighed 465 pounds four years ago weighs 190 -- 275 pounds gone.  None regained.

"I can hardly wait to get up and get -- what's gonna happen today?  I am so excited about it," he said.

Baxter's wife says that with the newfound energy, she doesn't know if he'll ever retire.

At age 66, he says losing helped him win.  Baxter is the 2014 Kansas Teacher of the Year. A photo in his classroom shows him being honored by President Obama.

Baxter says his thinking and interaction with students improved when the burden of obesity was lifted, and so did his outlook on life. The English teacher quotes a Robert Browning poem.

"That poem begins -- 'Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be.  The last of life for which the first was made:  Our times are in His hand who sayeth a whole I planned.  Youth shows but half.  Trust God.  See all nor be afraid.' That's why I teach now," he said.

For Jeff Baxter, the best is yet to be.

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