Dr. Michael D. Belcher, Director of Hancock County Schools, passes away after a brief illness

Newly appointed Director of Schools, Dr. Michael D. Belcher, passed away on Sept. 20 after a brief illness.

Since July 1 of this year, Belcher had served as the Director of Hancock County Schools. He was proud to serve in this capacity and wanted only the best for our students, teachers and community.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the responsibility and I am looking forward to the challenge of trying to make this the best school system anywhere around,” Dr. Belcher told the Review/Eagle at the end of the meeting when he was chosen as the new director.

Belcher was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and moved to Tennessee at an early age. He spent most of his life residing in the mountains of Hancock County. Better known to some as “Doc”, Belcher earned his Doctoral Degree, and all degrees preceding, from East Tennessee State University.

Belcher was 58 years old, and his 32-year education career was spent almost entirely in Hancock County.

Before he was appointed as Director of Schools, he served as a classroom teacher, principal of Mulberry Gap School, Kyles Ford School, Hancock Elementary School, Hancock Middle/High School, and Supervisor of Special Populations.

In 1983, he received his first assignment as Principal of the former Mulberry Gap Elementary, where he also taught grades K-8, and coached three basketball teams.

In 1984, due to system-wide layoffs, as one of the last people hired, he was laid off, but was re-hired five years later to teach at Hancock Elementary when it was still in the old “Rock Building”.

During his six years at HES, he taught sixth grade for two years, fifth grade for four years, and also coached the boys varsity basketball team.

In 1995, he was re-assigned to the former Kyles Ford Elementary as a teaching principal (K-8), and also coached three basketball teams.

Five years later, he was re-assigned — and served for an additional five years — as principal of Hancock Elementary (K-8), one year in the “old” building prior to construction of the new elementary school.

In the 2004-05 school year, he was assigned as Director of the Special Education Department where he worked during the illness and later passing of the program’s director at the time.

During the 2006-07, school year, Dr. Belcher became the assistant to former Director of Schools Mike Antrican, a position he held for two years before being re-assigned in the 2008-09 school year for a seven-year stint as principal of Hancock Middle and High School.

From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Belcher held the position of Director of Special Programs, where he supervised and oversaw Special Education, OCR, Homebound, Homeschool, Alternative School, Section 504, Gifted Education, Title 9/Discrimination, and evaluations for all principals and assistant principals.

In addition, he performed contract work with Grand Canyon University (2004-06) to do site visits and mentor online Education Students, and served as an Adjunct Professor for Lincoln Memorial University (2006-08) where he taught Pre-Law and Masters Degree-level Education classes.

He was also chosen by the Kellogg Foundation to be part of a principal-only doctoral educational group made up of 20 administrators in the First Congressional District.

{span}Dr. Belcher had four children — two of whom are teachers in the Hancock Co. School System — and six grandchildren.{/span}

In his spare time, he enjoyed outdoor activities, deer hunting, and wade-fishing for trout and smallmouth bass.

He was an avid fan of University of Tennessee sports, including men’s basketball, football, and Lady Vols basketball.

“Belcher had a passion for family, education, and the outdoors,” read his obituary. “He was a loving husband, dedicated father, and cherished granddad. He loved being an educator and the highlight of his life was helping young minds develop. His wisdom and insight in the education field will be dearly missed. He was a true sportsman at heart and had a deep love for hunting and fishing. It can easily be said that whatever he was doing, he was doing it wholeheartedly.”

He will be greatly missed by the school family.

Hancock Co. Schools were closed on Thursday, Sept. 24 in honor of Belcher. All other activities, including sports, were canceled as well.

Services for Belcher were held at McNeil Funeral Home, with visitation on Wednesday and funeral on Thursday.