Chad Spalding was recently named the new director of the Hugh C. Spalding Academy, the district's alternative school. Spalding -- a long-time history teacher and coach at Marion County High School -- sees his new role as an opportunity to help students get back on track by building positive relationships and emphasizing the importance of life lessons and skills.
“One of the things I want to implement quickly would be mentors that would come over -- sometimes twice a week or maybe three times a week -- that would have life skills to teach,” Spalding said.
Spalding has already looked into working with the high school’s JROTC instructors to teach first aid and CPR, for example.
Other initiatives Spalding plans to incorporate soon include counseling for drug and alcohol abuse as well as suicide awareness training.
“The biggest thing is transitioning -- for them to be able to learn that mistakes happen in life, and for them to transition back into being successful,” Spalding said. “Their experience here hopefully gives them the tools for them to be a better person, a better citizen, and a better student.”
Spalding is hoping to lean on his years of experience as a teacher and coach to help motivate his students to make good decisions.
“I think 22 years of being in the classroom, having taught every type of student, has enabled me to relate to so many different types of kids,” he said. “From a coaching aspect, I’m still charged with motivation. I’m still very much putting my energy toward motivating kids to be better. Our motto here is ‘a better today is a greater tomorrow.’”
Although he just recently accepted the position, Spalding has already implemented a soft skills program with his students.
“I’m trying to teach them everything from how to shake someone’s hand to looking them in the eye,” Spalding said. “It’s about learning those skills and understanding important terms -- ‘respect’ for example.”
Students individually complete writing assignments about those terms and soft skills followed by a whole group discussion.
“The response so far has been outstanding -- we’ve had a lot of one-on-one conversations, and with me being able to read what they’ve put down on paper has allowed me to build relationships with kids,” Spalding said. “It gives them an opportunity to put down some thoughts about how their feeling that day -- sometimes they just need someone to guide them.”