Santa Claus is a third grade teacher


Datelina – the aceOn the school day before Christmas, Allen Landers’ third grade class Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy:

Teddy bears, dolls, puzzles, coloring books, basketballs and assorted toys are arranged in colorful rows and piles and sparkling piles in Mr. Landers’ Christmas store (aka his class from third year). They are available for purchase by any of his students with the means to pay for them. Nobody pays cash, which is a good thing, as hardly anyone has a lot of it anyway.

What they have is an innovative and enthusiastic teacher with boundless love for his students which is why Landers is my choice for Person of the Year for 2021. He is an outstanding example of the many dedicated teachers. of Knox County public schools who have faced difficult challenges over the past two years as they worked to help their students through the pandemic, no matter what obstacles stood in their way.

Behavior money

These third-year SMG students can’t wait to spend their wads of behavioral cash in various sizes – brightly colored bills in denominations of $ 1- $ 50 printed with pictures of Mr. Landers’ dogs – redeemable only in the Christmas store, which is open for business on the last day of school before the holidays. It’s a day that the students of Landers look forward to and prepare for throughout the semester – just like the teacher.

“The number of children who want to buy things for their mother or their little brother is heartbreaking. Some of these kids are tough, street hardened beyond their age, but when they say, “I want to buy this teddy bear for my little sister…” you think “Wow.

“There is always a child who buys more than anyone else. He had a wad of bills about an inch thick and said, “I think I’ll just save it.” I said, ‘Look, there’s nothing else to keep it. It’s the last day.

“But when we come back in January, I’ll do it again and we’ll have a last day of school store.” “

It has been a difficult few years for the children, as well as for their teachers. It hasn’t been easy for anyone, but it’s a bit more difficult for children who depend on school meals to protect themselves from hunger and who may not have access to internet connections or personal computers. or parents with time to supervise home schooling.

But what they have is an innovative and enthusiastic teacher with boundless love for his students.

Enthusiasm is in the middle of the Landers wheelhouse. When he was a student at the University of Tennessee, he was a cheerleader who wore a furry Smokey mascot costume. Even before that, the Memphis native spent part of his childhood in Knoxville when his father, Dr Bill Landers, was a graduate student helping the baseball coach here, and Landers decided at the time that he wanted to live in Big Orange Country, a dream he never forgot during his 20 years in the Navy after graduation, or during his eight years teaching in Savannah.

Christmas store merchandise

More toys

And it was in Savannah that he had the idea of ​​rewarding the good behavior of a colleague who became a school principal.

The question asked by the Christmas Loot Pile is who pays?

The answer is Landers himself. He begins to frequent the toy aisles on Black Friday weekend and buys wagons full of goods. Frequently, store managers understand what he is doing and help him with additional business.

The second question is, how does he pay for it?

“It’s called being a retired veteran,” he said. “People have asked me to let them participate, but it’s something I do for my children.”

The school itself has a program to reward positive behavior, but the Landers Christmas Shop and cash rewards are its own.

Landers had to fight for this job, and that means everything to him. He ran into the administration of the first school he was assigned to and was told he would not be rehired to teach in Knox County. He accepted a job as a teaching assistant at a much lower pay and managed to get the attention of former SMG principal Amy Brace, who fought to help him get back into a classroom.

It took three years, but now he’s back where he was meant to be – in a classroom, making a difference in the lives of children.

Betty bean writes an opinion column Thursday for KnoxTNToday.com. Each year, she names a person of the year.


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