by Katrina Milton - The Midweek

The hallways at Kingston Grade School are decorated with monkeys and a rainforest canopy. The elementary school’s back-to-school theme is “Wild about Learning,” fitting for the jungle that can be the first few days of school.

The school definitely feels like a jungle for Cameron Davekos. Wednesday, Aug. 12, was not only the first day of school, but it also was his first day at a new school – and his first day as a teacher.

Davekos is the school’s new third-grade teacher. Davekos received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northern Illinois University in December. Although he has experience teaching as a student teacher and as a substitute teacher, standing in front of 26 third-graders on Aug. 12 was the first time he lead a classroom of his own.

In addition to teaching third-grade full-time, Davekos also coaches seventh-grade boys’ football at Genoa Middle School. Davekos also is the school’s only male teacher in a classroom; the only other two men on the school’s faculty are the physical education teacher and the custodian.

MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton met with Davekos after his first day in the classroom to discuss goals as a teacher and his plans for the upcoming school year.

Milton: Are you from the area originally?

Davekos: I’m originally from Carpentersville, but I moved to Genoa in the third grade. I went to Genoa-Kingston High School and graduated high school in 2007. I was a volunteer coach and went to NIU at the same time. At NIU, I received my bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I graduated in December 2014.

Milton: Have you always wanted to be a teacher?

Davekos: So far, I’m the only one in my family that’s a teacher. In high school, I had a great accounting teacher and I thought at first that I would be an accountant. Then, in 2007, I started volunteering as a coach at Genoa-Kingston High School. I realized that I wanted that connection with students, to teach others.

Milton: What is it like teaching in your own classroom?

Davekos: It’s exciting and a whirlwind. It’s definitely different to have your own classroom, especially when you’re meeting the kids for the first time. I hope to really get to know them over the course of the year and to develop my relationship with them.

Milton: What do you think makes a good teacher?

Davekos: A good teacher can handle all different kinds of situations. They’re flexible and understanding to all different kinds of students. They make the subjects fun and fresh. They do whatever it takes for the subject to click, for the students to understand.

Milton: Are you the only third-grade teacher in the school?

Davekos: There are five third-grade classrooms total. We talk and work together to make our lesson plans as similar as possible. It helps to make sure that we don’t forget anything in our lessons and to see the different styles of teaching. We often bounce ideas off of each other and introduce new approaches, like integrating technology and innovative ideas. … The team and staff at school eased me into the role as a teacher and helped me prepare. They’ve made me feel comfortable. They’re very supportive of me as a new teacher. It’s something I’ve never experienced before. It’s a great feeling to have that support system.

Milton: What subjects will you teach in your classroom?

Davekos: I will teach math, reading, writing and spelling. Science and social studies are included in the reading coursework. … I will teach math, division and multiplication and fractions. They already know their letters in cursive, but we will work to connect the letters to form words and sentences.

Milton: What is your favorite subject?

Davekos: Growing up, I always loved math and social studies. One of my favorite classes was actually seventh grade social studies with Mrs. Hill. She is now my principal at the school.

Milton: How is teaching different than being a student?

Davekos: Going from being a student to being a teacher has been an eye-opening experience for me. I took method and education classes in college, but now I’m planning lessons, activities and field trips. There’s a lot of lesson planning, hours of preparation and collaborating with teachers that happens behind the scenes.

Milton: What do you like best about teaching?

Davekos: I love the eagerness of the kids coming in to learn. It inspires me. I’m excited. Third grade is such a great age, because they’re getting more responsibility. They’re taking home homework and bringing it back. I want the kids to have fun and learn. I want to spark their interest.

Milton: What are your goals for this school year?

Davekos: I hope to instill in my students a passion for learning and for them to become lifelong learners. I want them to learn life skills, responsibility and compassion for others. … I’m excited to see the growth of the students, in all areas and aspects. I want them to learn and master math skills and to take those skills with them into fourth grade and the rest of their life. I want them to comprehend the reading from any kind of book and for them to polish their writing skills throughout the curriculum. I want them to grow as an individual and respect their environment and others.

Milton: What do you think next year will be like?

Davekos: There’s still a mystery aspect of how the future will be. I will probably be more prepared. I will know more about the building, the policies and the schedule. It will be easier next year when I have more experience. Right now, I’m just taking it all in.

Milton: What are your long-term goals for the future?

Davekos: Maybe I will go back to school to study curriculum, instruction and education. I love being in the classroom, and I’m comfortable where I am. … Being a teacher and achieving that goal is a humbling feeling. I’m in the lifelong career that I’ve always envisioned being in. Knowing that refuels me and makes me happy. It makes me want to be in this profession the rest of my life.