New teachers bring enthusiasm

From left, Jack Varcados (math), Andrew Saletta (band), and Jake Baur (English) are the new teachers at Mancos High School. Enlargephoto

Special to the Times

From left, Jack Varcados (math), Andrew Saletta (band), and Jake Baur (English) are the new teachers at Mancos High School.

Three new teachers have come to Mancos School this semester. Two are in the high school and one is the new band director.

Jake Baur, fresh from Fort Lewis College in Durango, teaches freshman, sophomore and junior English, and creative writing. He could be easily mistaken for one of his students, as young as he looks. But his confidence and excitement give him away.

"I love the small community," Baur said. "The students know each other and they are so good at listening and engaging each other."

Baur graduated in December from FLC with a Bachelors in English Education. He spent most of last year being a student teacher.

He likes to push his students, he said, and make them think critically. Most of the questions he asks them are the open-ended kind, that require some thinking and subjective answers. "It gives them something to think about," Baur said.

He's concentrating on the classics. For his freshmen, he's having them read "Romeo and Juliet", "To Kill a Mockingbird", and "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings". His sophomores are reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" and a Shakespeare play, eight Julius Caesar or Othello. The juniors that he is teaching will read "The Great Gatsby" and another novel that he hasn't decided on yet. "I'm considering 'The Grapes of Wrath', 'The Crucible' or 'The Things They Carried'.

The curriculum for his creative writing class has mostly been written but he has a chance to do a lot of what he wants, he said. "I read them short stories, poems, and have them listen to music ... it makes it more engaging." The class critiques each other's writing and he hopes to have them, as a class, write a children's book and then read it to the elementary students.

Andrew Saletta is the new band director and comes to Mancos from Albuquerque, N.M., where he earned a Master's degree. He taught for four years in Durango, so he's familiar with this area. His main instrument is the flute, but he also plays the piano and the guitar.

"It's really a challenge working with these kids," he said. There are all levels of proficiency, he said, but they are all willing to learn. "They are good about practicing while I'm working with a student on his technique."

Jack Varcados teaches math at the high school, specifically algebra, geometry and math lab. He also teaches an elective self-defense class.

Varcados graduated from high school at East Bernard High School in East Bernard, Texas. He comes to Mancos High School with an Associates degree in Biology/Pre-Medicine and a Bachelors degree in Biology/Chemistry. He was certified in Texas for science and will be taking the state exam this semester to add math to his teaching endorsements. He's been a substitute teach, a bus driver and a private math tutor. He's been a substitute in Mancos and Dolores since 2011.

" I enjoy teaching math or science at the high school level," said Varcados, "because this is where most kids begin to develop skills in analytical and critical thinking, and it requires a bit of maturity that typically is not found in the lower levels."

He grew up in a small Texas town - "a map dot - a stop sign on a blacktop," and Mancos reminds him a little bit of home.