Consistent. Kind. Creative. Fair. Funny. These are adjectives parent April Gill used to describe her child’s first grade teacher, William Cave, when she recommended him for a Central Penn Parent Terrific Teacher shout-out.
“He has a masterful skill of a classroom full of 6 and 7 years olds,” she wrote. “One might mistake him for the pied piper.” Cave has been teaching first grade at the Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg for 12 years.
Central Penn Parent: When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
William Cave: I was a camp counselor during the summers while I was in college and realized I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my campers overcome obstacles and fears while building confidence and skills. Whether it was learning how to swim or working through low ropes and high ropes courses. But it wasn’t until I began volunteering at my son’s school to help out with recess, gym, and to teach art to first graders that I really knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Previously, I was in the corporate world and teaching was an exciting change.
CPP: What was the most important lesson you learned when you first started teaching?
Cave: Classroom management and patience. Classroom management is at least 80 percent of teaching. Without it and patience you will quickly sink. In my first year teaching first grade we studied Pennsylvania history and we were learning about Ben Franklin. One thing we learned is that each week Ben Franklin would practice a different virtue, 13 in all, and kept a small book to track his progress. I thought I would try the same and used the Fruit of the Spirit as a guide. I started with patience and quickly realized that I wasn’t as good at patience as I thought I was. Instead of spending a week, I ended up spending four years on patience alone (and continue to work on it).
CPP: Describe your teaching style.
Cave: Fun, industrious, energetic, silly, and relaxed. My goal for the classroom is to have a joyous, yet peaceful classroom with a growth mindset. This balance can at times be difficult, but with good classroom management and clear and consistent rules it is attainable.
CPP: How do you know when you’re having a positive impact on your students?
Cave: For me there are a couple of different ways that I know I’m having an impact on my students. The first would be directly from the students. Watching a student struggle on a math or reading concept and then teaching them the strategies and skills to overcome those obstacles is very rewarding. I love to see the confident smiles when they successfully tackle a concept. The second would be communication from parents. One parent let me know that their child woke up and excitedly got dressed for school only to find out it was Saturday. Even though he shed some tears, the parents let me know how thrilled they were that their child was so excited for school.
CPP: What, or who, has helped make you a better teacher?
Cave: Dr. Chris Perrin has had a huge impact on making me a better teacher. His expertise in classical education, his constant reminders to teach classically, and his love of education and students has all had a tremendous influence on how I teach today. Our grammar school dean, Dawn Swartz, has also made me a better teacher. I have learned so much from her leadership and wisdom and am so thankful for her constant support and guidance.
CPP: What’s your biggest challenge today as a teacher?
Cave: Building a sense of cohesion among teachers and parents where we work together to build success in all areas of the student’s education.
CPP: What’s your greatest reward?
Cave: Instilling a love of learning and watching it blossom and grow.
CPP: What’s one piece of advice you would give a new teacher?
Cave: Take time to clearly outline expectations and practice classroom management. Also build in extra time into your lesson plans. Many times your projects and lessons will take twice as long as the time you have allotted.
CPP: What’s a fun fact about you that maybe your students don’t know?
Cave: I love riding and racing dirt bikes. My favorite kinds of races are hare scrambles where you’re on your motorcycle racing through the woods for two hours. It’s a blast and a huge passion of mine.
A great teacher’s steadfast enthusiasm reaches well beyond the lesson plan, stoking his or her students’ passion for learning that will last a lifetime.