The best part about being an education reporter, for me, is to interact with the people in the schools: the students, the teachers, the faculty, the parents. Today was a good day. I popped by Carlos Gilbert Elementary School in Santa Fe for a "Teacher Who Inspires" award, for a 38-year-veteran of special-education named Bob Stark. The school surprised him with the award during a talent show. People cried, because Bob is retiring, and students looked sad, but they cheered when the staff sang "Rocket Man" for him because he runs a Young Astronauts Club where they build and fire off rockets once a year. He told me teaching was a gift from God. His kids talked to me. The parents of his kids talked to me. His Educational Assistants talked to me. Everyone was talking because they realized people like him need some recognition, and it comes out in the newspaper one day (in fact, I'll have a story on this tomorrow) and then a few days later, you wonder, is that recognition over?
Another cool thing: after the staff gave Bob the award, the school hosted a talent show, and it was like one of those old Little Rascals shorts from the 1930s. Two first graders got up on stage and sang, a cappella, that old 1940s pop tune "Swingin' On a Star." I mean, who taught them that? A boy got up and displayed some karate moves he had learned. Another boy played the violin, and yet another played the cello. A little girl got up and did sort of an abstract ballet, with a cartwheel and some rap moves thrown in to the mix. A 1st grader named Sam performed two of his original songs, one of which had to do with the joys of having an umbrella on a rainy day. Sometimes you forget that this stuff can still go on in school. The crowd was really respectful.
These experiences really are the the best element of covering education, and I feel like a lot of us don't get to do that sort of thing much because it doesn't make for great news or catchy headlines. But you can't always swing on a star in this business. You have to file public records requests and attend board meetings too.
Summer's almost here - you can feel it in the schools.
See Thursday's New Mexican for my piece on Bob Stark.