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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Roland Garrison (he/him)

3rd Grade Head Teacher

Know Your Pelicans

What do you teach? What is one of your favorite parts of the curriculum?

I teach Third Grade, and I love our social studies programs. I am involved with the ever-enriching components of our social studies lessons.

What's something that most people at Packer wouldn't know about you?

I've been to Paris about 17 times. I studied dance and Urban Studies in college. When I got out of college, I got a job working in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies, doing choreography for Club Med shows. And then I worked at a local studio. And while I was there, I did some choreography in Paris. I would meet people from France, and I ended up learning how to speak French. That is why I've been to Paris about 17 times.

I stayed in Guadeloupe, France for seven years. And when I came back from Guadeloupe, back to New York, I joined the military, after walking by a recruiting office. I guess I was hungry. I said, "Do you all get food?" And they said, "Yeah," and I joined the military. And I was stationed in Korea. My first couple years, I was crawling around in the mud. I thought that it would be really cool to be a medic, and I did become a medic. And then after that, I thought to myself, "You could do so much more." So the military sent me to school to become an orthopedic tech. And that's why I roll casts — Enslin castings, splinting, traction, X rays, all those things I was taught to do. And I was stationed in Korea; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Heidelberg, Germany, for six years at the hospital; and then at West Point. When I got out of the military, I ended up in the fashion industry. Saks Fifth Avenue on Fifth Avenue. I knew nothing about fashion; I don't love clothes. I like to shop for myself, but I don't want to dress other people. But it was a lucrative profession at the time. I didn't feel like that was a good fit. And it was definitely not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

Why do you teach? What do you like about being a teacher?

Being a teacher is just one way of inspiring young minds to enjoy learning and finding their learning styles. Back when I was in the fashion industry, I was on the subway one day heading to work, dressed in designer clothing from head to toe, and there was a sign on the subway, and it said, "Do you remember your third grade teacher?" And it just hit me. It was like a moment of clarity, or divine intervention—I don't know what it was. But it was so clear to me. The sign read, "Who's going through remember you?" And I went, "Oh my god." I'm a teacher. I knew right in that moment, that everything I had done up to that moment—it made sense. It just made sense. 

Tell us about a time you found your job especially rewarding.

I worked as a third grade teacher at Packer years ago, and I was working with students who are still here, who are now in 10th and 11th Grade. I don't think I saw them once in between eight or nine years, and they still remember. And the joke is that I don't remember them because they're so much more mature now, but they remember me. And when they tell me, it's like, "Oh my god, you're six foot five now." They tell me things that I either said or did that they remember, and the fact that they are so happy... When one of them recognizes me, it's a moment of joy.  It's really powerful stuff. As a teacher, you never know who's hearing you. You never know who's listening. And that's why it's so important as a teacher that we're very mindful of our words and our actions. 

Besides your subject, what's something you hope to teach your students?

We used to do "bootcamp," — for our morning meeting, we'd be out in the Garden. This group over here, I'd have doing push-ups; over here they would be running; I'd have this group doing jumping jacks; this group going "We're doing army kicks, right?" I bring the army. And my students from years ago, they remember that. 

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