Christopher Casey never would have guessed three years ago that he would be where he is today, teaching full-time as a paraprofessional at Riverwatch Middle School.
Before heading to the school, he said he had such a different life. He gave up his job in the art business years ago to stay home and take care of his two daughters while his wife worked.
School: Riverwatch Middle School
Years teaching: 3
Subject: Special Education
Later on, when the kids started getting older, Casey said a friend suggested that he start working as a substitute teacher.
“He was at home with his kids a lot, and he started subbing,” Casey said. “And he said ‘man this is really cool. Start doing this.’ And I said OK, and the first two times I did it … it was fun, and I just kept doing it.”
And then after some time working as a substitute, a close administration member from Riverwatch Middle School called him to ask about working full-time.
“I didn’t think about actually working,” Casey said. “But when they asked me, I was ... like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’”
After he started, he said there was no way he could ever stop.
The Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for October 2020 talked about his transition from stay-at-home-dad to teaching middle schoolers, how he fell in love with teaching and his family’s love for card games.
Had you ever worked with kids before you started at Riverwatch?
“Nope. [Just] my kids. It’s kind of funny because growing up, my daughter’s friends would call [our house] Camp Casey because I would take them to the lake. Like five or six little girls and I’d take them all over the place, and they’re like oh it’s Camp Casey.”
What did you all like to do at Camp Casey?
“We would go to the lake a lot, go to Lake Lanier. And they loved to jump off the dock and absolutely loved to go fishing. That was our big thing, and we did that a couple of times a week.
“A lot of these kids had never fished before, and I had fished all my life. So me teaching them how to catch little brim, and it was … the greatest thing in the world.”
Do you think being a stay-at-home dad really prepared you for teaching full time?
“Yeah I think so. I coached all my kids’ sports. I taught my daughter basketball, I taught her sports and I taught my other daughter in sports. I was always around these kids, and I was always teaching kids even if it was a sport or [something] else. At times, I would have seven kids at my house, and I was in charge of them. It was kind of like having a classroom sometimes.”
I’ve heard that middle school is the hardest age group to teach. Would you say that is true?
“My daughter at the time was a seventh grader, so I knew middle school. I guess my other daughter then would have been a 10th- or 11th-grader, so I knew those kids also. But I just kind of fell into middle school, and it’s what I know and what I’m comfortable with. I did some long-term subbing at South Forsyth High School for a while. That was great, and I loved it. I might have gone in that direction, too, but they just said come work here. And I’m not leaving there, I like it there.
“They all see me, they all know who I am. They’ve seen me around and I’m generous to everybody. Like it’s Friday and I have jolly ranchers in my pocket. If they catch me on a Friday, they whisper, ‘Mr. Casey, you got some candy?’ and I’ll give them a jolly rancher for all the kids who are in the know.”
What have you enjoyed most about teaching these last few years?
“Just being with the kids. Just interacting with them every day and seeing them when they’re good, they’re bad; their ups and their downs. When you have to be stern with them and when you get to play with them. I’m a very joking, nonsense — not a no-nonsense, but a nonsense — kind of an individual. I get to have fun at work. That’s what I do. I think that’s what people in the school like about me because I just have fun, and I don’t get mad.
“I can have a rough day and have a lot of problems in the classroom with kids, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I still have fun, I still laugh and still play with all the kids at the end of the day.”
What do you and your family like to do outside of school?
“We love to hang out on the deck and grill out. Like during the pandemic, we’ve done a lot of family bonding time. We love playing games and playing card games. It’s just my two daughters and my wife, and we really just like the easy, simple things.
“My oldest daughter has every little game. She’s addicted to it, and she’s the girl who won’t quit. We have to play one more … just one more all night. It will be like [midnight] before I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m done. We’ve been playing this for four hours.’ Because she’s competitive and she doesn’t want to lose, so if she lost the last game, she’s definitely not going to stop.”