High school reunion " as a teacher
Post Independent Staff
“College Charlie” is going back to high school.
Nicknames have always stuck to Charles DeFord, a rookie Glenwood Springs High School English teacher, like chewing gum to the underside of a desk.
“College Charlie was the nickname the kids gave me when I was student teaching at Silver Creek High School (in Longmont), because I opened every class with a college tip of the day,” said DeFord, a 2000 GSHS and 2004 University of Colorado graduate, who has returned to his alma mater high school to teach freshman, sophomore and junior English classes.
“One of the tips I gave them was to make sure you buy extra pairs of underwear because you’ll run out of laundry and you can always re-wear jeans.”
In high school, the scholar-athlete award winner with a quick wit didn’t go by his full name ” he preferred a shortened moniker.
“I didn’t know he went by Charles ” I knew him by Charlie,” said former GSHS soccer coach Steve White, who now coaches the men’s and women’s soccer programs at Colorado Mountain College. “I always thought he would have some type of success in his life because he was a great leader. Charlie always had a very calm manner and he was reassuring to the younger players.”
White said even in high school the former GSHS soccer team captain exhibited leadership qualities pursuant to becoming a teacher.
“He has a lot to bring to the high school. He has a great sense of humor and he’s very intelligent,” said White, owner of the White Insurance Agency in Glenwood Springs. “He has a good nature and I’m sure the students in his class will be made to feel comfortable. “
DeFord was certainly at home Monday in Room 113 after his first career freshmen orientation session.
Vintage album covers from Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, and several from his favorite band, Pearl Jam, decorated the classroom walls. A compact CD player sat below the chalkboard ready to play up-and-coming bands to welcome students as they enter his room during the school year.
“I’m a big music fan,” said DeFord, who was born in Greeley and raised in Glenwood Springs. “The technical side of music doesn’t appeal to me ” I don’t know how much I really like classical music or opera.”
One way DeFord showed his comical and musical sides during orientation was with a game he dubbed Two Truths and a Lie. A brown chalkboard with three handwritten statements greeted freshmen the day before classes started, reading: 1. “The Big Lebowski” is my favorite movie; 2. I watch the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”; 3. I love country music.
The No. 3 choice was the farce.
“Country music just doesn’t do it for me,” he said. “Surprisingly, I do watch ‘Aqua Teen,’ ” it’s a comedy cartoon on the Cartoon Network. And what about the ‘Big Lebowski’ would you not love? We all need a little bit of Dude in our lives.”
DeFord, also the new GSHS speech team coach, said he plans a more light-hearted, constructionalist approach to teaching, instead of cookie-cutter lessons.
“When I was in college lecture halls, a lot of the time there wasn’t much that made me want to show up,” he said. “No one likes a dull class that makes you feel like you’re just learning what other people think you should be learning.”
English classes with Bob Brooks, who retired from GSHS in the spring after a 34-year teaching career, are DeFord’s inspiration for the way he plans to educate students.
“I had English my junior and senior years with Brooksie,” said DeFord, an avid skier who is happy to have returned to the mountains to play. “I remember we were studying transcendentalism, specifically Henry David Thoreau, and we had to do a transcendentalist essay. We went to Veltus Park and wrote about what we observed in nature.”
Brooks remembered DeFord, his teacher’s aid when he taught English as a Second Language as an excellent student with a great smile.
“He had a very well-developed sense of irony,” said Brooks, who is now a real estate agent in the valley. “That will help him.”
As far as offering advice on teaching, Brooks said DeFord shouldn’t lose his sense of humor and should always remember that kids will be kids. Brooks recalled standing in the hall outside his classroom his first day of teaching at GSHS and a student walked by with a six-inch green Mohawk haircut.
“Never lose your ability to laugh at yourself, including within the world around you,” Brooks said. “And that adolescents are still adolescents. I don’t think kids have changed that much. The troubles they have are universal.”
After five years out of high school, “College Charlie” just might offer advice that rings true for his 120 teenage students.
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