by Demond Fernandez - WFAA

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, and many people are honoring those educators who have made a positive, significant, impact in their lives.

Students and staff at Clara Oliver Elementary School in Dallas are giving a special salute to math teacher Joseph Francis.

“He’s so intelligent,” said fourth grader Shanterria Woods.

Mr. Francis has become very popular with his students. They call Francis a man with a knack for making math fun.

“He explains things to me how I understand them,” said fourth-grader Tory Robertson.

Francis admits he adds a certain level of cool to the classroom.

“I do,” the teacher said. “I’m a jokester. I’m a jokester, I always incorporate sports.”

He says multiplying ways to connect with the kids on issues they are interested in is an important factor.

“It’s because of engagement,” Francis said. “No child is going to want to sit in a classroom, and sit for 30 to 45 minutes if they are not engaged.”

Engaging with the students is something that comes easy to the young teacher. The children in his class define his role as divided in a positive way. They say he’s part teacher, part mentor, and more.

“He’s kind of like a father figure to me,” Woods explained. “He teaches me stuff that no other person does.”

Colleagues call Mr. Francis a man who draws on his personal experiences in order to connect with the students. Like many of the children in his class, he too grew up in a single parent household.

Francis explained, “Not having that male figure in the household, sometimes, that’s where I understand, ok, how to approach you. Because when I was a kid I always reached out for mentors. I always clung on to my coaches.

The teacher is making a difference in the lives of many students this Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond. It is a responsibility Mr. Francis says he doesn’t take lightly.

“It takes a village to raise a child and I understand that,” Francis said. “But I also understand the importance of having a male role model and somebody that you can see.”Watch the video.