Each month, the newspaper will highlight a classroom in the Moffat County School District in its education section in the Saturday Morning Press. Education reporter Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or email@example.com.
Meet the teacher
Name: David Gaines
Class: Fifth grade at Sandrock Elementary School
Years teaching: Seven years, first year with Moffat County School District
Philosophy: "Respect and trust, and it has to go both ways."
Craig Taezsa Pacheco whispered each word as she read "The Mystery of the Golden Train" to herself.
Another student plugged his ears with his fingers as he silently mouthed words.
While fifth-grade teacher David Gaines worked with a small group in the corner of his classroom at Sandorck Elementary School, the rest of his students exuded a calm, quiet energy as they worked their way through the book on their own terms.
"We've worked on silence as a way of having a voice," Gaines said about his quiet but engaged class of 27 students. "It's really great for those shy kids, that they can use silence."
Gaines came to the Moffat County School District this year after teaching seven years in Kansas City, Mo.
He earned a master's degree in contemplative education from Naropa University in Boulder this summer and applies the themes of silence and awareness he researched for his thesis to the class.
"It's all about thinking deeply about the things we do before we present it to the students," he said. "It's about recognizing the mind, body and spirit of each child."
But he admits his students aren't angels all the time.
They do act up regularly, as students their age should, he said.
"With fifth-graders, they're unaware of their emotions," Gaines said. "But we can recognize them and work with them instead of trying to butt heads with them."
Right before lunch, 10-year-old Kobe Meagher approached Gaines.
"Can me and someone :?" he asked.
"No," Gaines said firmly but kindly. "You may sit back down and use proper grammar."
As a former middle school English teacher, command of the written and spoken language is an important part of education to Gaines.
This is his first year as a fifth-grade teacher, which means he has to teach math and science on top of his usual subjects of reading and writing.
But, 10-year-old Joseph Selbach welcomed the focus on literature.
"He's a really good teacher," Selbach said. "I really like writing because I like to think of things. And Mr. Gaines helps me with writing a lot. Especially with planning."
Most of the 27 students left the classroom to go outside for their first recess of the day.
But three students remained.
Taezsa, Tatam Hickman and Nate Lewis kneeled around a bin of new math blocks they were breaking up into pieces and organizing for a future lesson.
"I usually stay inside for the first recess," Tatam said. "All we do is go outside and play 'mad monkey,' and it gets a little boring. I'm here to help Mr. Gaines. I like to help him because he has a lot of stuff to do."
Taezsa said she liked to help Gaines because he is the nicest teacher she's ever had.
"I like him because he helps me a lot with stuff," she said.
Gaines said he doesn't mind his students staying through their recess or lunch because it gives him the chance to interact more with his students.
"It can be hard to get work done sometimes," he said. "But this is where the relationship part of teaching happens. It's a lot easier for them to talk to me. And I love that they want to help me. Not every kid would, but these are the really good kids."
As far as challenges go, Gaines said he will sometimes err on the side of expecting too much from his fifth-graders.
He recalled an event a few weeks ago when almost half the class didn't do their homework.
He thought it was an anomaly, but when it happened again the following week, he was disappointed and upset.
"I was definitely a little angry," he said. "I told them, 'This is not the way you learn. This isn't the way to get to sixth grade.'"
But, when he reflected later that evening, he realized he might have expressed himself a little rashly.
"I went back the next day and told them that I might be disappointed sometimes, but I still loved them," he said. "And, this one little girl said, 'You loves us? Ew.' It was really cute. But it's true. They know they're all my children."