For Scott Scheese, who grew up on a 100-acre farm in rural Missouri, becoming a third-grade teacher at Big Thompson Elementary School felt like coming home.
Scott would rather be in the outdoors than anywhere else, and he says that after teaching at other schools, Big T’s focus on the natural world around us is perfect for him.
“In the classroom, each person feels like the most important person at that time,” he explains. “Being outside on a hike reminds you how you aren’t the most important thing. There’s so much happening around you. Nature doesn’t need you for it to continue to thrive.”
Finding a Way to Give Back
Scott didn’t have a traditional route to becoming a teacher. After earning bachelor’s degrees in sociology and creative writing from the University of Missouri, Scott knew he wanted to find a way to give back. He wasn’t sure how to do that, but he felt like helping kids to have open minds was a great start.
Scott got an alternative teaching license, and applied for teaching jobs through Teach For America, which matches people looking for education jobs around the country. Scott was placed in Phoenix, where he taught special education at a preK-8 school. He was awarded with a large trophy and the title “Rookie of the Year” after his first year on staff there, and then the following year, his future wife received the same award. They met while working at the school and decided that as much as they enjoyed their jobs, the weather in Phoenix wasn’t ideal, and they decided it was time to move.
Colorado for the Win
They chose Colorado, where Scott’s wife was from, and Scott was hired to be an administrator at a college prep school outside of Denver. He very quickly realized that enforcing the strict obedience rules at the school did not align with his beliefs.
“The system there is that the knowledge comes from adults. We tell the students what the correct answer is,” Scott says. “That experience in Denver taught me what I do not want.”
Instead, Scott began looking for a place to teach where students can have more ownership of their education.
“Students are not just empty vessels that I’m going to fill with knowledge,” he explains. “They bring skills to the classroom. I like to use inquiry. That’s what’s going to make it stick, when they ask the questions, as opposed to me telling them the answers.”
Scott’s Career at TSD
Scott spent several years teaching in TSD’s alternative and special education programs, including as an instructor for the Intensive Learning Center at what was then Conrad Ball Middle School. Scott said he loved working with the students in ILC, but that when he found out about a job opening at Big Thompson, he was excited to fulfill a major item on his career bucket list: Having his own elementary class.
“I want to have as deep an impact as I can in the short amount of time I have these students,” he says. “In terms of a student’s career, third grade is a blip. I want to stay close to students, and have my students remember these experiences for years to come.”
One of Scott’s priorities is creating lots of small moments that have a big impact on the kids in his classes. He believes that it’s the little things that teachers do for their students that the students will remember and take with them.
“We put so much work into big celebrations and events, when the kids are like, ‘I just love that you have that special high five with me,’” Scott says, adding that in some previous schools where he worked, educators were always looking for things to correct, but at Big T, the staff is always looking to emphasize the positive. In Scott’s classroom, that looks like active participation mixed in with a little noisiness.
“I think we are moving back toward play as valuable,” he says. “It’s in our biology, it’s how we learn. We learn through play and through mistakes. We celebrate mistakes here.”
Focusing on Positivity
By celebrating mistakes and focusing on positivity, Scott says he can help students have a foundation for learning that will carry them through school and beyond. And by setting a good example, he can teach them something about being good humans as well.
“I believe that all students are capable of empathy, critical thinking and ethical character, and being well-rounded people,” he says. “Hopefully I will have a positive outcome on their lives. Love other people, love yourself, and love learning.”