SACRAMENTO, CA - He found his passion when he tutored some children in reading during his college years.
The experience led John Castro to Earl Warren Elementary School in Sacramento where he's been for the last seven years. He teaches fourth, fifth and sixth grade.
Right now, he's a fourth grade teacher. Students will stay with him for two more years. "We do something called looping here," explained Castro. "In the fourth grade, we're getting procedures down and getting everything started. But in the fifth and sixth grade, the kids come in the first day ready to go. We don't have to spend two months figuring out what's expected."
All of his students have his cell phone number and he makes home visits. "It's a way to get to know their families. We don't talk about school work. We don't talk about how their kids are doing," Castro said. "That might creep into it a little bit, but I want to know what the child likes doing at home. Where your family is from -- those kinds of things."
Castro said getting to know students helps them academically. The students learn that their teacher likes to use technology to make learning fun.
his students use remote controls that are hooked to a interactive white board. They can punch in answers to math problems on the screen and see how many students got them right. They can also write on the board and move items around as they explain.
Then there's Castro's website where students can login any time they want to. "They can see video clips of the things we've been doing and share them with their families. And if they forget their homework, they can download it. It's also a way for parents to stay in touch with what's going on in class."
Students also play video games on the website. The current one that is featured is called "Dollars and Sense". It's a role playing game that's tied to classroom lessons about running a business.
"We're in the video game generation so I figure why fight it? I use it to my advantage," Castro said. The kids are all talking about getting the highest score and who they beat. They're having a great time and they don't realize they're learning."
According to Castro he wants his students to be prepared when they graduate from sixth grade. "I want them to learn good study habits, be responsible and not make excuses but find solutions," he said. "I want them to believe in themselves and know they can do anything they want to do."
By Karen Massie firstname.lastname@example.org