Every so often people enter our lives who push us to be our best. More often than not, those people are teachers. Although Mr. Damien Dimas and Mr. Sheldon Jordan teach completely different subjects, both go beyond what’s written in their textbooks to shape their students’ lives. Together they’ve brought over $15,000 in materials to their classrooms through DonorsChoose.org.
Damien Dimas, Teaching Life Through Music
“I teach life through music,” explains music teacher Damien adding, “I tell my students – no one’s expectations define you. Things may be difficult now, but perseverance will help them get better.”
After serving in the Marine Corps for three years, Damien transitioned into teaching music in Dallas, TX. A musician himself, Damien helps his students see themselves as ‘young musicians’ rather than music students. Students who enter Damien’s classroom with the perception that school is purely a requirement or that attending class is just an alternative to getting in trouble leave with a love for music and the confidence to solve tough problems.
Committed to creating relevant lessons, Damien builds units around musicians who inspire, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, legendary blues guitarist and product of the Dallas public school system. Vaughan struggled through school and battled problems with addiction but turned his life around to become one of the most influential electric guitarists in history. Prior to teaching one of his songs, Damien uses the story of Vaughan’s success to drill home that “things will get better faster when you work hard at it.”
Through his DonorsChoose.org projects, Damien’s students now have a mixer, bass amp, and other high-tech music resources.
Sheldon Jordan, Building Champions
“Champions come to school on time, work hard and do what the teacher tells them to do. They find at least one person a day to give a compliment to. I am a champion, I will act like a champion.”
According to Sheldon Jordan, this is how each day kicks off in his classroom, and he and his students work hard to make this chant a reality in their daily lives.
Teaching 4th grade in a Title 1 school, Sheldon Jordan often encounters students who need extra structure and attention. Serving as both teacher and mentor, Sheldon builds every unit to address both academic and social skills. For example, Sheldon requested Kindles through DonorsChoose.org so that his students could record themselves reading acts out of Readers Theater. This early public speaking lesson allowed Sheldon’s students to observe their pronunciation and delivery, which in turn increased their confidence in their reading ability.
After receiving a copy of the book Wonder, Sheldon developed a lesson for his students focused on self-awareness. The book follows the life of Auggie Pullman, a child born with severe facial deformities, who manages to overcome his hardships through the support of his parents and school faculty. Sheldon encouraged his students to speak to their families and ask questions about their backgrounds and other characteristics that define who they are. To close out the unit, Sheldon had his students create self-portraits, sharing their perceptions of themselves and brainstorming ways they could continue to improve their self-image.
“I want my students to grow up to be respectful and responsible citizens who make the most of all situations and uplift people as they do it. My hope is that they take that philosophy with them always and will make a great impact on the world,” explains Sheldon. He has requested and received everything from Common Core workbooks to digital cameras on DonorsChoose.org.
Damien and Sheldon help their students aim high by building environments that encourage self-discovery. How do you push your students to become better people? How do you help them define their identities?
Find out more about these teachers and how you can support them:
Mr. Damien Dimas is a high school music teacher in Dallas, TX.
Mr. Sheldon Jordan is a 4th grade teacher in Sunrise, FL.