Isaac Padilla always knew he would one day become an educator, growing up in New Jersey where his mom was teacher.
But as he entered high school, he found a new passion — wrestling. He joined his high school team where he wrestled for four years before moving to Georgia to Truett McConnell University in Cleveland where he competed another four years.
Upon graduating with his degree in Early Childhood Education, he knew he wanted to go on to teach elementary students, but he struggled with the idea of coaching his own high school wrestling team.
School: Silver City Elementary
Years teaching: 3
Subject: Third grade
When he landed his first job at Silver City Elementary School where he currently lives in Forsyth County, he thought to reach out to his college roommate who wrestled at North Forsyth High School as a student. Through him, he was able to get in touch with the school’s head wrestling coach.
“We just went from there, and now I’m part of their staff,” Padilla said.
For the past three years, Padilla has taught third graders at Silver City during the day and helps coach high school wrestlers at North Forsyth in the afternoons, transitioning between the roles seamlessly.
His dedication both to his students and to the sport are just some of many reasons why the community voted Padilla as Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for June. The FCS spoke with Padilla about his role as an assistant wrestling coach, what he has learned as a teacher during the pandemic and how he serves as a male role model as one of Silver City’s only male teachers.
What is it like teaching in an elementary school and then leaving to go coach at a high school?
“I always tell people it’s almost just bigger bodies. The elementary students are fantastic, and so are the high school students. The high school students might know a little more … but they are both just people who need to be impacted by a positive influence. And for elementary students, it might look a little different than it would with a high school wrestler.”
What do you like about teaching third graders?
“It’s an age where they learn how to be a little more independent, and I like pushing those students to really believe in themselves and to learn the importance of hard work and a good work ethic. It’s at an age where they are growing up now to become closer to middle schoolers, and before you know it, they become closer to high schoolers.
“So I feel like it’s a good age for me to lay a good foundation for them, and if they need a positive male influence, then I can be there for that and help them with that change.”
Are you one of the only male teachers at Silver City?
“We have two P.E. teachers, we have a technology specialist who is a male and our principal. We had a gifted teacher who is a male, but he just left to go to another school. So there are only five of us including myself,” he said, laughing.
“But it’s fun! It gives everybody different perspectives.”
What made you want to go into teaching third grade?
“Teaching this specific grade was just what I was given, and I decided to run with it. I never had a grade in mind. I like to do what is needed and fill in the gaps and be somebody that can be relied on if something comes up. Say they need an upper grades or even lower grades [teacher], I’ll give my best at it. I can’t promise that I’ll be amazing, but I’ll always give my best effort.
“I think that’s something I always try to teach all my students because it’s just a really important life lesson to them. I give my students three rules: work hard every day, live with integrity and love other people.
“And I think that also flips into where people would like me to teach. If I’m going to work hard with whatever I’m given, it will turn out alright if I might not think so.”
How have you liked working at Silver City in the past few years?
“I really love it there. It’s a really good community of teachers and administration, and I feel very welcome there and part of a large family. It’s not just a group of people that we work with, but it’s like a large community that’s bigger than the school. So I love it, it’s great!”
This past year has been difficult on everyone and especially teachers. What is one thing you learned this past year as an educator yourself?
“Not only as an educator, but I think no matter who you are, you always have to have a positive attitude. In my classroom, I have a blackboard, and on the blackboard, I put a two-word mantra that says, ‘positive infinite.’
“I don’t necessarily tell the students [the mantra], but if there is ever a situation, especially this year where we have change after change after change and some kids might need to leave and we have to follow protocols and you might get frustrated, I would always look at it [and remind myself].
“If you have a positive attitude about it, and you think, ‘Yes, we might have to do these things, but we are still in school, still doing what we need to do and the kids are happy.’ That kind of got us through the year.”
What do you like to do outside of the classroom?
“I teach, I coach and then I also wrestle a little bit on my own. We have a college [age] and up group that wrestles toward the south end of the county.”