Erie Elementary: Fourth Grade
Charlie Garcia started teaching in Erie the day Elvis died. Thirty-five years later, the town has grown substantially: the old town streets have been paved and new suburban neighborhoods continue to envelope its historic downtown. Erie’s edges are not so rough. Yes, Erie looks very different than it did in the 70s.
The one constant may just be that Garcia is still teaching the town’s children. He’s the longest-tenured teacher at Erie Elementary and its longest employee.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel I have a home here,” he says. “I get to walk to work, and it just feels right. The staff is so caring and wonderful. It has a good vibe.”
Garcia has always been attracted to the “freshness” of teaching young kids. The students are so different, which makes each day different. He gets to see all diverse perspectives on the world.
“It’s just fun to be around kids,” he said. “It’s fresh like the smell of a flower, like fresh-baked bread.”
Despite the fact that he’s been around for decades, Garcia does not kick it old school, so to speak. In fact, he’s happily adopted a more innovative classroom, using an iPad, a class website and blogging as tools. He does not shy away from changing technology, but still, his goal has always been the same: to find and celebrate each child’s skills and talents.
“I hope they find themselves,” he says. “It could be through writing or math. If they find something they love, it could be a stepping stone. It could be something to turn to in the future. It’s like how Erie is my spot. It’s where I turn.”
Garcia, who has written multiple self-published books, often uses writing in the classroom as a tool for setting the classroom culture. It’s a community within the classroom, and writing helps students open up, express themselves and be earnest. It knocks down the inhibitions and allows them to celebrate each other’s work: “When people share their work and there’s response, it breeds community.”
The overarching theme to his work is very much about community—fostering it and being a part of it.
“You become a part of the community,” he said. “You establish a community in your classroom. You are a part of the school’s community. And you are a part of the community of