CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Admittedly, David Glass is only fluent in English.
But even though he teaches English as a second language to Meadowbrook high students, it is his ability to relate to the kids beyond language that has elevated him among his peers.
"In order to serve our students and prepare them for life after high school, I believe that every teacher has to have a passion for working with students," Meadowbrook High School Principal Dr. Marcie Terry said. "They have to have a passion in building relationships with students and knowing what their interests are."
Glass has that passion and then some. Enough to be honored as Meadowbrook's teacher of the year.
The ESL program at Meadowbrook is constantly expanding as more and more newcomers to America and their families settle in Chesterfield County. Glass tries to make his classroom feel as accommodating as possible.
"You belong here. We value and appreciate you," Glass said. "We value your culture. You're welcome here. They need to feel that kind of a sense that this is a good place, a safe place. This is a place I want to be. There are too many messages outside of the school that say you don`t belong here.
If the name and the face look familiar, they should. Glass was the women's basketball coach at VCU for seven years from 1996 to 2003.
He doesn't coach hoops anymore, but he kept his whistle and switched sports to once again help his students better assimilate.
"Every single student that I have, soccer is very important," Glass explained. "They're sort of divided right down the middle whether it's Real Madrid or Barcelona, but there's that connection to the game."
Glass started after school soccer practices and pickup games to help his new students meet new friends and stay off the streets. It expanded into a Saturday league that runs from kindergarten to middle school kids.
"If we can give them positive things, things to say yes to, they're a lot less likely to be doing things they shouldn't be doing or they should say no to," he said.
And for some, it has provided a look into their true personality. Students that were once afraid to participate in class come out of their shell on the soccer pitch.
"Then one day it was like, wow look at these skills," Glass recalled. "They just come alive. And it really changes the conversation, the way you talk to them. You can even nudge them a little and say 'hey I need to see a little more of what I see on the soccer field.'"
"You have no problem taking someone one on one and embarrassing them in soccer," Glass continued. "That's OK in the classroom too. If you think you have an answer or have thought, share it."
"[The students] grow immediately with people like David and with coaches where if they can find that one spark in the building, they know OK, I'm going to work towards making myself fit in," added Meadowbrook Athletic Director Joey Richeson.
Glass has help from Fort Lee soldiers who volunteer as soccer refs, and from Carlos Monje, himself an immigrant from Argentina who knows how important the beautiful game can be to a child dropped into a different culture.
"They need friends," Monje explained. "In school, you cannot make friends because you are all-day quiet listening to the teacher. You get out on the field and you see it's another world. You've got friends and you can make friends."
"Sometimes there's a lot of obstacles that keep some kids from being able to come to school every day whether it's work or family," Richeson added. "He's pushing them and them being involved in sports is keeping them in school."
Glass smiled when asked about his busy lifestyle.
"When you know them and know their stories and what they've gone through and the determination they have, it's like well, I need to keep going because they're going to be there".
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