Trading teachers in Gypsum |

Trading teachers in Gypsum

Lauren Glendenning
Gypsum, CO Colorado
Lauren Glendenning/lglendenning@vaildaily.comMaria Switala teaches a lesson to kindergarten students on April Fool's Day in Gypsum, Colorado. Switala is normally a master teacher, so she doesn't have her own classroom " she said being in the classroom with the young students was refreshing.

GYPSUM, Colorado “-Think teaching first-graders and fifth-graders isn’t that different? Teachers at Gypsum Elementary in Gypsum, Colorado would tell you otherwise.

The school was all jumbled up Wednesday. The teachers and Principal Mitch Forsberg decided to make April Fool’s Day the day they’d switch roles ” a master teacher taught kindergarten; a fifth-grade teacher taught first grade; a kindergarten teacher taught second grade; a fourth-grade teacher taught first grade.

“They don’t sit still,” said Lisa Hofsess, a fourth-grade teacher turned first-grade teacher. “It’s like herding kittens.”

The teachers gathered in their lounge at lunchtime and laughed hysterically about some of their experiences from the morning. Switching roles reminded them of the differences in each of their teaching days, from silent reading that isn’t so silent to lining up in a straight line for 20 minutes before getting it right.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say ‘keep your hands to yourself,'” said Christina Martinez, a thrid-grade teacher who taught kindergarten for the day.

It was exactly those kinds of experiences Forsberg hoped his teachers would have. Understanding each other’s jobs helps everyone in the school work together, he said. It’s a team-building experience.

“The more we know about what each of us does, the better off the whole school is going to be,” he said.

Hofsess couldn’t believe how different fourth-graders are from first-graders. She said she has a much harder time connecting with the first-grade children.

“I don’t get them,” she said, laughing.

One thing she did get was that she is right where she belongs.

“It confirms for me that I’m doing what I love,” she said. “It gives me a huge amount of respect for the other teachers.”

Forsberg said the day was also a way for teachers and students to cut loose a little after a lot of stressful weeks leading up to the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, the state’s standardized tests that both teachers and students spend a lot of time preparing for. The role switch was also a way for the students to have some fun after working so hard on their studies, Forsberg said.

“It was really enjoyable,” said fifth-grader Diana Sigala. “We got a first-grade teacher for science class and she was really fun. It’s been a really fun day so far.”

The difference in energy is one thing many teachers noticed. Maria Hanson is a first-grade teacher who taught second grade Wednesday, and she said she was just a little too excited and energetic for the slightly older children.

Hofsess found it was the children who were too excited in her situation. When she tells a joke to the fifth-grade class she normally teaches, they laugh for a few seconds and move on.

“But in first grade, forget it,” she said, referring to the uncontrollable and unstoppable laughter coming from the younger children.

Forsberg said it’s easy to just assume things about another teacher’s job. You’d think the kids just line up when you ask them to, he said, but that’s not always the case with certain grade levels.

Switala said she had a newfound respect for the school’s permanent substitute teacher, Liz.

“She can just go into any class (in any grade), any day and just do it,” Switala said. “This reminds everyone that everyone has their own challenges when they’re teaching.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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