Back To School Series Part Two: Grants Pass

GRANTS PASS, OR — Continuing our back-to-school series, we’re heading over to Parkside Elementary School in Grants Pass.

Fifth-grade teacher Mr. Shawn Smith just started his 16th year as an educator, all at Parkside Elementary.

“Sixteen, I’m the old guy now, right?” Smith said. “I didn’t have any gray hair when I started.”

Smith says his shop teacher back in high school, Rowdy Morgan, showed up at a pivotal time in his life.

And as he became more and more interested in teaching, Smith wanted to teach his own lessons just like Mr. Morgan.

“Later on, I thought maybe I could be like Rowdy,” Smith said. “Maybe I can make a difference and show up for young people the way that he showed up for me.”

The elective is only three years old at Parkside. It’s been supported by local stores who have donated tools.

Smith says the district, parent volunteers and other community support have helped wood shop keep growing in Grants Pass.

“Some people really gravitate towards math and reading and science, and then some people really need to work with their hands,” Smith said. “So, if we can bridge those two things together and show them that they’re not standalone, these things go together very well. It gives purpose, I think, to math and those subjects.”

During my time with him, a former student came by to visit Mr. Smith. The former student said Mr. Smith would always look out for him.

“I used to get in trouble a lot and he would always help me like, not getting in trouble” said former student Chandler Taylor. “Now in middle school, I don’t get in trouble at all.”

Where does Taylor rank Mr. Smith on his all-time favorite teachers list?

“Number one,” Taylor said.

With the school staff and the Parkside families he’s gotten to know over the years, Smith says it’s them that make it easy to come to work every day.

“It’s just a really fantastic organization to be a part of,” Smith said. “It’s easy to get out of bed in the morning to serve the community in this way.”

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Marcus Veal is co-anchor of NBC5 News at Sunrise. The San Francisco native graduated from UCLA with a degree in English. He also played trumpet for the UCLA Bruins’ marching band. Marcus earned his Master’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Marcus loves to work out and make pasta. He roots for the San Francisco Giants, 49ers, Golden State Warriors and UCLA Bruins.
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