From Filmmaker to 4th Grade

| 02 Mar 2015 | 04:30

    in hollywood films, compassionate, inspiring teachers are easily found. thomas roberts, a 4th grade teacher at trinity school, brings that enthusiasm to the real world.

    "learning is a joy in mr. roberts' classroom," said parent bahar tavakolian. he is everyone's favorite teacher-be it a girl or a boy, an introverted student or an extroverted one...he teaches his students respect for others, kindness and how to be a great citizen of the classroom, the school and the world beyond. he's an incredible teacher."

    fourth grade, roberts says, is an optimal time for learning.

    "they are old enough to focus, while young enough to be captured by the joy of learning," he said.

    parent sean baldwin has seen roberts in action while attending field trips and volunteering at the school.

    "mr. roberts has the ability to connect with and inspire confidence in a wide range of children, largely because of his obvious dedication to their interests," baldwin said. "it's the amount of time he puts into them. he has a tremendous personality-warm and kind, but with an appropriate level of discipline. he's not just a teacher but a mentor."

    roberts makes sure that learning is fun, whether it's through traditional term papers, a three-dimensional egyptian tomb, haiku-writing or improvisational skits that nourish students' confidence, imagination and team-building skills.

    but it isn't all play. students are required to maintain a planner and a homework notebook that must be reviewed and signed by parents daily. children are taught time management and the importance of keeping their desks organized and clutter-free-"the fine art of throwing out things," as roberts calls it.

    while teaching brings him to school before 7a.m., often roberts' day extends beyond 3 p.m., as parent mindy gray knows.

    "the phone rings. it is 9 o'clock at night and the school's caller id pops up on my screen. alarmed and confused to be receiving a call at this hour, i answer. it's mr. roberts who is checking in to see if my daughter's thumb is feeling better after being injured at a sports event."

    parent tavakolian remembers when her daughter, sara, mourned the loss of her grandfather. roberts put aside his lesson plan to broach the sensitive topic. "he shared a personal loss with the class to get sara to open up. other students joined in," she said. "this simple act helped really helped her understand death is a part of everyone's life."

    as a student at hanover college in indiana during the 1970s, roberts had his first teaching experience at the englishton park children's center. working with children with behavioral issues was a formative experience.

    "i had to work with kids from tough backgrounds and find new ways to reach them, while providing positive reinforcement," he said. "the experience really helped me relate to children in a different way."

    roberts earned his education masters from harvard then worked on the pbs science and mathematics series the voyage of the mimi. after five years as an independent filmmaker, he applied for a position at trinity school and was accepted.

    "there are a lot of people who sit behind a keyboard in a cubical counting the hours. i feel lucky," he said. "there aren't many jobs that give such a sense of fulfillment." -- thomas roberts fourth grade, trinity school