As students leave Patrick Garland’s fourth grade classroom at Maple Grove Elementary in Waukee, they see a sign that reads, “If you think nobody cares, think again.” The sign is there because Garland sincerely cares about the well-being of his students, and he wants them to know they will always have his support.
“He always tells us to keep trying, and he believes in us,” said student Zaida Stroud, who nominated Garland for this feature.
While he was growing up, Garland mentored younger students, and found that he had a knack for it. In college, he a year in computer programming classes before changing direction to become a teacher. Garland taught for four years in Des Moines and then spent a couple of years as a computer programmer in corporate America before realizing that teaching was his true calling. He is now in his fifth year of teaching at Maple Grove.
Garland said he enjoys teaching at the fourth grade level because students are at the age when they are becoming more aware of history and current events. They’re also starting to understand a dry sense of humor, which Garland likes to incorporate into the classroom to keep things interesting. “It makes me want to come to school every day, and I think it makes them want to come to school every day,” he said.
Garland draws inspiration from seeing his students make new discoveries. “They struggle, and they keep trying, and then the day the light bulb turns on—I don’t think there’s anything in the world that’s better than that,” he said. He’s also inspired when he collaborates with other teachers and learns new material for the classroom. “Waukee provides a lot of professional development, so we’re continually learning,” he said. “I end up teaching the kids everything I learn because I get so excited.”
When he’s not teaching, Garland enjoys spending time with his family and building things out of scrap wood with his two sons. He’s also an avid reader and names Terry Goodkind and Stephen King as two of his favorite authors.
When nominating Garland for this story, Stroud said, “I love being on Team Garland, because we love our captain and he loves us back.” With feedback like that, it’s obvious that Garland truly provides the type of environment mentioned on his classroom sign—one in which he cares.