Longtime teaching assistant is the 'rock star' of Trinity School | News | Almanac Online |

News

Longtime teaching assistant is the 'rock star' of Trinity School

 

Bim Cleland is one of the first teachers to arrive at Trinity School in Menlo Park, getting there at 7:30 a.m., before the school day begins. He's out on the schoolyard greeting students and organizing athletic activities.

The daily scenario exemplifies how Cleland, 64, "wears many hats and wears them expertly" at the school, said Trinity Principal Matt Allio. He follows his daily early morning activities with classroom duties as a first grade teaching assistant, using art and mathematics in his lessons. And, he's also a PE teacher.

"Many people at this stage in their career pick and choose, but he chooses everything, and does everything well," said Allio. "He's a role model for all kids. All the things he does are powerful for kids. He's a mix between being fun (and) always being in good spirits, with really strong expectations for kids. … I don't know where else you can find a PE, art and math teacher."

Cleland, whom students simply call "Mr. C," joined the Trinity staff in 2000, and his rapport with kids on the playground and in the classroom is such that former students return to the school to visit with him.

Cleland, who bikes to campus from his Woodside home each morning, received his bachelor's degree in art therapy at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, and brings his love of art and nature photography to his job at Trinity.

For years, he has created greeting cards for his fellow teachers, school officials said. The cards feature sketches based on his nature photographs.

Cleland incorporates his own love of painting and close-up photos of flowers and insects into his art lessons with students.

"I always have a camera in my car or on my bike with me," he said. "I always want to stop to take a photo of an oak tree in the Horse Park on the way to work."

Cleland is the assistant for teacher Linda Rutherford's class. He teaches the first graders math in the mornings, incorporating students' names into word problems. Cleland said the word problems let students work with numbers in a different format. The problems include photos he takes, so students can observe shapes and numbers in real-life scenarios, he said.

"He brings it (math) to life and makes it engaging," Rutherford said. "At this age (the kids) all love themselves, so it speaks to their egos. … He helps to make (math) shine a bit more."

A number of years ago, Cleland also decided to put together a book of math problems for the school's first graders to supplement their math learning. He creates the cover art for the book as well.

Cleland said he has stayed at Trinity for the past couple of decades because it's a school where professional development is encouraged.

"What I do bring to the school is valued and very appreciated," he said, noting that he likes education that is progressive but holds on to traditions that really work, which, he says, Trinity does. He strives to teach the "whole child," and families come to Trinity to receive that type of education, he said.

Trinity fifth grader Lucas said Cleland is "super creative and funny, and goes out of his way to make up new games" during PE classes. For example, Cleland created "capture the aliens" -- a game of tag in which some students play extraterrestrials and others play humans, Lucas said.

Cleland said he tries to help students develop motor skills -- the ability to sense what one's muscles are doing as they perform the act -- during PE classes.

"He's a lot of people's favorite teacher because he's always going around and helping make problems better where he sees them," Lucas said.

Cleland has such an impact on students that when he retires, there will be a shift in the Trinity School community, Rutherford said.

"He's the rock star of the school," she said. "Every student knows him and he knows every child."

---

Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or show your support for local journalism by subscribing.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Sheena
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 17, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Mr. C has a great impact for my son (currently in first grad). My son develop great interests in math because Mr. C makes math fun! Mr.C is truly a rock star at Trinity School.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 8,452 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 19 comments | 2,623 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 8 comments | 2,050 views

Premarital and Couples: Here Be Dragons!
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,373 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 9 comments | 1,365 views

 

Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

View Details