Friday, January 3, 2020

Looking Back On My Years As a 5th Grade Private School Teacher

Back in 1990, at the age of 25, I was a fifth grade teacher in a private school. I only taught for a couple of years before going into the field of law -- mainly out of financial necessity since my first child was born when I was 28 and I was making peanuts as a teacher. That child is now 26 years of age and she is a third grade teacher. It's interesting to watch life unfold with its twists and turns, and it's nice to see my eldest daughter with a classroom of her own.

I look back with fond memories of my days as an elementary teacher. It certainly was challenging at times, but also quite rewarding. One of the three Bachelor of Arts degrees I pursued in college was elementary education and I knew that I wanted to try and have a positive impact on children during my lifetime. As readers of this blog know, I've been blessed to present at school assemblies in the United States and Europe, taught Sunday school classes, and enjoyed many years of coaching high school track and field athletes. As a father of four adult children and a step father to four more, I feel that I've been blessed in my life with opportunities to try and be an example to young people.

Teaching fifth grade had its ups and downs. The "ups" were being able to see kids learn and become better people -- even at the ages of 10 and 11. One of the "downs" I experienced was being told by the school superintendent that my teaching methods were "unconventional" and not in step with the school's standards. Let me explain. If I was teaching a lesson on Christopher Columbus, I would be on my desktop pretending to be at the helm of a boat -- expressing my thoughts upon seeing the New World. It was on such a day that the superintendent walked passed my classroom and saw me dressed up as Christopher Columbus, standing on the edge of my desk and bellowing my excitement about this significant discovery. Suffice it to say, what I 'discovered' was that I would no longer be allowed to teach with such creativity and enthusiasm if I wanted to keep my job. I was specifically told, "You're here to teach, not to entertain."

Even though I used unconventional methods in my classroom, my students excelled and advanced on to the sixth grade successfully accomplishing the curriculum. In fact, about 15 years after leaving the classroom a 20-something man approached me in a restaurant wearing a military uniform. He extended his hand to me and said, "Mr. Staso, it's wonderful to see you sir." I had no idea who the man was. I shook his hand and inquired as to how he knew me. The man smiled and then told me his name. He was a student that I had taught when he was only 10 years old, and he certainly looked different those many years later. He was now serving his country and took a moment to tell me that I was the best school teacher he ever had. After thanking me for my role in his life, he wished me well and walked away.

Sometimes we don't realize the impact we can have on the lives of young people.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso