Every child is unique. Every child is special. Every single soul who walks through the halls of Westlake is valued – is respected – is loved. But I will say that not every student “lets you in” the same way. Once in awhile, there is a kid who opens her or himself enough to share their singular light.
As a senior, Carlos Gil returned to Mrs. Krass’ second grade in pursuit of another meaningful year of service. Whether cutting, copying, correcting or connecting, Carlos has found an amazing way of relating to the students and staff he encounters. Mother Theresa once said, “In this life, we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” This has been the mantra that Carlos lives out each and every day in her class.
Dubbing him, “Mr. Handsome Hair,” the second graders literally cheer whenever Carlos walks into the room. He immediately gives in to their requests of high fives and hugs, and gets on their level to engage in conversation. The other day, when asked to help guide the students in a writing project, he promptly sat beside them and began a brainstorming session, drawing on their strengths and encouraging their creativity and confidence.
As an educator, it is important to know your cards and how to play them. It has become apparent to all of us teachers that Carlos Gil is a hidden ace. He has a way with students that brings them to a place of safety and motivation. While children respond well to their teachers, they react to a cool teenager who walks in the room. Personality has power, and Carlos has worn kindness on his sleeve so tangibly that the students literally seek him.
Recently, the senior class went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. While it was amazing to hear about their experiences in the elementary chapel, I would have to say that the moment of unparalleled connection happened the following Tuesday, when Carlos gave every second grader a bracelet that he had purchased from the market in the D.R. Shining with pride and importance at being remembered, the students walked around admiring the different colors they were given.
According to Elaine S. Dalton, “If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world.” Carlos isn’t afraid to be different. He isn’t ashamed to kneel on the ground so that he is eye-level with a child trying to explain something important to him. He inarguably does any task Mrs. Krass sets before him with efficiency and cheer. He even litters a few of our desks with notes of encouragement to carry on.
All I can say is, the extra mile is never a wasted effort, and Carlos has proven time and time again that he is not afraid of distance. So thank you to him, and to every teaching assistant like him, who takes the time to not only care but carry the hearts of those around him.