DIXFIELD — Robert Staples has devoted all but one year of his 33 years teaching to the former SAD 21 and now RSU 10 school districts.

When he leaves his sixth-grade math classroom in June, he will have taught many of the lower primary grades, as well as served as a special education teacher and as the athletic director for Dirigo Middle School for several years. He also coached both high school and middle school sports for boys and girls.

He’s a firm believer that sports are critically important to many youngsters.

“It’s another way to help kids,” he said. “Sports teaches life lessons. Working together helps them in the classroom, college and in life.”

His willingness to listen and obvious interest in their lives was evident last week when his class entered the classroom. They were laughing and talking and couldn’t wait to tell him their latest adventure.

Staples, a 1977 graduate of Dexter Regional High School and the University of Maine at Farmington with a B.S. in special and elementary education, taught special education his first year at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford. Then he headed southwest to live in North Jay and teach in Dixfield.

Staples said entering teaching was one of the best things he has ever done. He remembers well why he chose that as his life profession.

When he was in high school, laws had just changed to integrate special education children into the same school as traditional students.

“These kids were teased unmercifully. I stuck up for them a lot. I decided I wanted to teach and work with these kids and make a positive difference,” he said. “I hope I have made a difference by just being there and listening to them and letting them know that they matter. When you do that, they’re willing to work hard for you.”

He uses the same philosophy when he’s teaching traditional students, as well.

“I’ve been happy with my career and it is hard to leave. I’ll probably be in education when we get to North Carolina,” he said.

By the end of the summer, he hopes, he and his wife, Shannon, a nurse, will move to North Carolina where two of their three sons and their three grandchildren live. And he may decide to continue teaching in a private school. He’s not sure right now because he has a significant sideline, known as Mainely Memories where he finds and sells ephemera — antique or otherwise important documents and other papers such as post cards, maps, and magazines — on the Web.

His sideline includes a considerable amount of research, something that he finds very relaxing.

“I love the research and telling people the story of the piece. I love history,” he said.

When he leaves the district in June, it will be one of the most difficult days in his life.

“I get such great respect from the kids,” he said.


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