From the outside, this might not seem like the ideal moment to start a teaching career. With his familiar booming radio voice, Ken Ulmer is right in his element in front of a live audience at A.C. Reynolds High.
Well, it's his class.
"You're only with them for an hour and a half a day but you really, really get to know them," he told News 13.
"When the pandemic hit, and I wasn't really going much of anywhere, I had a lot of time to think about where it was that I wanted to be," said Ulmer, a longtime radio host who was once a fixture on 96.5 FM here in Asheville. "And I'm very grateful that led me to A.C. Reynolds High School, and to teaching."
"So what makes a price elastic, and what makes a price inelastic," Ulmer asked students in his Sports and Entertainment Management class.
"Two important terms!" he said waving a foam finger.
In less than a year, Ulmer has proven he can grab attention and most importantly, teach.
"It's pretty cool in his class, you know, good vibes," said student Ricky Tolbert.
"He's very enthusiastic," Lydia Klepper says of her unconventional teacher. "Especially like having a class in the morning, we're all tired. By the end of the class, we're up!"
It makes sense that music is on heavy rotation in Mr. Ulmer's class.
"I'm telling you, the Backstreet Boys," he says, cueing up the boy band.
"Tell me why... ain't nothin' but a heartache" Ulmer crooned, singing along with the boy band classic "I want it that way," which came out years before his students were even born.
"I like his vibes when he sings," Tolbert said.
"Y'all are rolling your eyes," Ulmer told his class. "And I guarantee you, a lot of you have fathers that dressed like one of those five young men!"
As a deejay, music was of course the center of his professional life. Before that, he worked in TV news, most recently as a producer at WLOS. Somehow 30 years of broadcasting prepared him for his new job.
"In radio, they told us we had seven seconds when you crack the mike to get someone's attention. So I try to remember that and think, okay, let's get laser focused. Let's get 'em reeled in," Ulmer said.
He launched his teaching career at an especially challenging time. Ulmer simultaneously engages students there with him in class, and those learning remotely.
"I just kind of went back to my TV days of doing a live talk show. I'm talking to a live audience, and I'm talking to the camera," he says.
Ulmer informs his classroom audience with the same flair he had as a broadcaster. But now, his impact is off the radio charts.
"I like him a lot, he's definitely one of the favorite teachers I've ever had," says student Evan Wazan.
"He brings a lot of joy to this class, it makes my day," Tolbert said.
"I hope they feel like someone's cared about them, I hope that they've learned something," says Ulmer.