Teacher Stories: Christopher Gassler, Special Ed. Math Teacher, Clayton High School, Clayton, NJ
I teach math at Clayton High School. I started teaching way back in 1999. Clayton is also my hometown. I grew up in Clayton. I graduated from Clinton High School in 1992. Having the opportunity to go back to the town that I grew up in (and I know this sounds corny, but:) it was so nice to be able to get back to the community that shaped me in becoming the man that I am.
I also teach special ed. in the resource room. The way the system is set up now, students that are special ed., they have to take Algebra II, and they are very difficult concepts. So I had to break them down for the special ed. students. It took time, and I wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to get to, but I was able to get them to a place where they were able to do some of the really difficult math problems.
I love the students; I love interacting with them. They keep me young. I love influencing them in a way that is more than just making them smarter. For me it is about helping them to see their inherent value. Many times when you are teaching you can get frustrated with your students because maybe they’re not doing their homework or they are acting out in class: just being rude and obnoxious, and all the different things that you can take personally. But then this knowledge comes your way that reminds you of the life some of them have at home and how hard that can be on them. Some may have a tough relationship with their parents, they may not even live with their parents, or their parents may be getting a divorce. I constantly need to be reminded that these kids have their own challenges outside of the classroom that can impact them in the classroom. So them being able to solve a quadratic, that’s not really high on their priority list.
But that just makes me want to be the best teacher that I can be. I see myself as being in a role of being a father figure or a big brother figure in their lives, and I don’t take that lightly. So it is important to me that they get a sense of worth from me that they may not be getting at home.
Interview by Gregory Andrus. To see more of his work, please check out www.portraitsofthejerseyshore.com.
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