Meet the teacher: David Byrnes

SCRIPT COMPARISON: David Byrnes checks his copy of the script against a student's copy who had a question while classmates were performing the play. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

SCRIPT COMPARISON: David Byrnes checks his copy of the script against a student’s copy who had a question while classmates were performing the play. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A weekly feature in the Pioneer is Meet the Teacher, highlighting various educators throughout the area. If you would like to nominate a teacher to be featured in a story, send the teacher’s name and the name of the school where they work to Candy Allan at callan@pioneergroup.com, or call her at (231) 592-8386.

BIG RAPIDS — David Byrnes has decided to hang up his hat as a teacher after 37 years, but he’ll have a lot of work to do. Byrnes is best known among students — and former students — for the variety of novelty hats he wears in class.

All told, he has 47 different chapeaus, including a football for game days, a pizza for pizza days in the lunchroom, a turkey for the day before Thanksgiving and a bright red crab to indicate the day isn’t going well.

“It started years and years ago, as a way to have fun,” Byrnes said. “Parents saw the hats and started buying me hats. Of the 47 hats I have, I’d say parents have purchased at least 30 of them.”

His hats and his classroom demeanor make an impression on his pupils.

“He’s fun,” said third-grader Cole Haist. “He wears hats all the time and gives out stuff, like candy for right answers.”

“He lets student do jobs, too,” added classmate Avery Johnson.

For the last five years, Byrnes has taught third grade at Brookside Elementary after teaching fourth grade for a year at the school. In addition to his six years at Brookside, he taught for 25 years at Riverview Elementary and five years at a Catholic school before coming to Big Rapids.

With all his history in the classroom, Byrnes gets emotional at the thought of leaving. His wife is retiring as well and the couple plan to move to Wilmington, N.C.

GROUP PLAY: David Byrnes reads out names to remind students which part they will read in a group performance of a play for the class. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

GROUP PLAY: David Byrnes reads out names to remind students which part they will read in a group performance of a play for the class. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

“This is a great class,” he said about his current students. “I knew if I had to retire, this was a good group to go out on. This year, for the first time in my life, I got emotional during conferences.

“At the end of the year, when I watch the last bus go, I know it’s going to be tough,” he continued, with his voice breaking and tears filling his eyes. “I can’t imagine what it will be like. It’s going to be strange next fall, to not be in a classroom.”

Kara Schafer, Brookside principal, knows his last year is difficult for him at times.

“Dave is passionate about teaching and building relationships with his students,” she said.

Byrnes looked forward to being a teacher since he was young.

“My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Simpson at Ovid Elementary, inspired me to become a teacher,” he said. “When I was in fifth grade, she told me she thought I’d make a great teacher. She actually set up all my classes through high school — listed what I should take — which was very strange.”

As a child, Byrnes was a good student and would often help his classmates out after finishing his own work. He liked helping them, and the desire to continue doing so stuck with him.

“When you see that ‘aha’ moment for a student, when they learn something new — there’s nothing better than when you see the lightbulb come on for a student,” Byrnes said.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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