Faces of 501: James Bell

Jim Bell works with sixth grader Kelwan Tiller during a recent math class at Robinson Middle School. 

Paraprofessional James Bell is in his fifth year of working at Robinson Middle School. Prior to working for Topeka Public Schools, he was a full-time teacher in Texas and in the Riverview Gardens School District near St. Louis. He also had his own business teaching driver’s education to high school students, even teaching Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott how to drive.

“In my career in education I have taught every grade level of students from kindergarten to high school. Without a doubt in my mind, middle school students can be the most challenging and yet the most rewarding at the same time. Their emotions are sometimes changing by the minute, but once a connection has been made, you are imprinted in their lives forever. Many former students see me in the hallway and say how much they miss our class. They often thank us for making them accountable when we had them as students. Can't beat the feeling that we made a difference in someone's life.”

“One of the main differences in being a teacher compared to a para is perception from the staff and students. Once a rapport has been established with the classroom teacher as to your abilities, teachers will allow more input into the lessons. The students then perceive the para more as a co-teacher rather than another adult helper in the class. I am blessed to have worked with Alaire Long in math since my first year at Robinson. She treats me not as just a helper in class but as a partner in the education of our students. Although I have taught numerous subjects during my years as a teacher and coach, I have found teaching math to be very rewarding. It is a subject that so many students start the school year believing they are not any good at. Getting them to believe in themselves and showing how effort towards the work will pay off is more than half the battle. In our classroom, we strive to challenge the students and relate lessons to real world situations and careers that would need these lessons.”

“If I had any advice to pass on to students it would be to make the most of what is being offered to them. Learn as much as possible from every source you come into contact with daily. That could be a teacher, para, secretary, administrator, counselor, food staff worker, bus driver or custodian during the school day. Surround yourself with other students who have set high educational and behavior expectations for themselves. Finally, take their advice and put it to good use. Knowledge is Power!”

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