Paul DeBacher, Fifth Grade Teacher

We’re wrapping our fifth-grade teaching team profiles with Paul! We hope you’ve learned a lot about this awesome teaching team.

If you missed it the first time around, here’s Michelle, Julia, and Lucius.

This is Paul’s fifteenth year in the classroom at TCS where he teaches social studies and language arts, but history is his real passion. Before arriving at TCS, he worked in after-school programs with pre-K and kindergarten students; he’s taught English to adult refugees; and he’s spent time subbing at all grade levels.  

What skills do you hope your students will learn by the time they leave your classroom? How are you preparing them to learn these skills?
I like to help students move toward greater independence as they learn to explore topics. Through individual and collaborative work, I try to get students to a place where they feel less daunted by the research process and more comfortable with presenting information. Fifth graders will put together no fewer than five, and probably closer to ten, presentations to peers and teachers by year’s end.

What about teaching makes you excited to come to school every day?
I always look forward to providing an environment for asking questions, finding success, making mistakes, regrouping, having debates, and carving out new plans. At TCS, a normal day is abnormal, and I’m never bored. Each experience yields bountiful food for thought.  

Tell us about one of the most rewarding moments in your teaching career.
Zeroing in on one rewarding moment is too difficult, but I enjoy walking with students at places where historical events have unfolded. Walking through downtown Atlanta to talk about the consequences of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, standing near the site of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech in Piedmont Park, or ascending the ancestral mounds of the Muscogee-Creek Native Americans at Etowah in Cartersville – these moments always seem important and rewarding.   

If you could meet any fictional or historical figure, who would it be?
As a history enthusiast, this changes almost daily. Recently, I’ve been fascinated by the experience of a Muscogee chief, Opothleyahola. He lived through the War of 1812, the Creek Civil War, removal of his tribe from the Southeast to Oklahoma, and the American Civil War. That’s a lot of intense American history packed into one lifetime, and his experience spans a lot of the topics we cover in fifth grade.   

What is something none of your students know about you?
Until very recently, none of my students knew that I’m a DJ hobbyist. When I have time (and I rarely do these days), I enjoy mixing, manipulating and scratching vinyl records. I’ve been doing this in one form or another since 1992, and I still love it, even though now my audience is usually just me.