MARYSVILLE, CA - Timothy Dant seems completely at home in his second grade classroom at Linda Elementary School in Marysville.
He offers help or hugs, whatever his students need.
"Many of them come to school with baggage, and I want them to know that their school is a safe place," Dant said. "It's like having an extended family. You can play with students and they're a lot of fun."
Dant has students working on words that start with "W". They sound the words out and use them in a sentence.
"The number one thing here is to have students become better readers in second grade," Dant explained. "That way they can go on to be successful in the upper grades. We also work hard on math."
He said he'd been teaching for 15 years, but only after trying several other jobs first.
"I worked for a nursery and as a landscaper. I was a DJ at several clubs in Sacramento. I also worked for the Sacramento Tree Foundation," Dant laughed. "Then I started to grow up and thought what could I do if I got a real job. And that's when I became a teacher."
His students learn to appreciate trees more by helping him plant them around the campus. Some tower up to 20 feet over the school.
"We've probably planted 40 to 50 trees," Dant said. "Last year or the year before I counted about 31 trees that are still living. We planted two this year so we're up to 33 that are still alive."
He and his students built a pond with a waterfall with lots of large stones and greenery. They've also painted several murals.
"The second one I did was the one in the kindergarten wing. The students did almost all of it," Dant said. "I'm still amazed because the dragon fly and the spider (in the painting) I didn't even have to touch them up. They did it all."
Lately, Dant has been teaching his students how to play African drums. He said he wrote a grant and got enough money to order drums directly from Africa. Eleven more drums are due to arrive in about two weeks.
Students were eager to see drums being made on the internet.
"These are hand carved," Dant said. "They saw the carvers and how all these families are working together to make the drums."
He points out his projects teach students about more than just academics.
"You make them think that they can make a change in their life and the world around them," Dant said. "They've just got to do it. That's something that will help them for the rest of their lives."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org