Natural Teacher Makes a Difference in the Classroom

Frank Leibrock learned much more than he realized the day he attended a Lamar City Council meeting in 1990. While attending a discussion on citywide recycling, the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension staff-development coordinator met a sixth-grade teacher who invited him into her classroom to discuss recycling. Once there, it was hard to get Leibrock back out of the classroom.

When he transferred to Fort Collins several years ago, he brought his volunteering inclinations with him. He’s worked with sixth-grade science and math students at Bennett Elementary School and seventh-grade English students at Weber Junior High School.

"I teach them how to apply literature and language to their future lives; how to apply the Pythagorean theorem to a simple cardboard box; how to save money using coupons; and other lessons they’ll find useful as they enter the working world. Naturally, I also encourage them to join a Colorado State Cooperative Extension 4-H club," Leibrock said. "Sometimes, however, I feel I learn more from them than they learn from me."

Leibrock’s volunteer work is representative of the outreach efforts seen throughout Colorado State Cooperative Extension and the university community. It’s a reciprocal relationship that benefits everyone involved.

"I get such a kick out of watching the students soak up new knowledge like a sponge," Leibrock said. "I greatly enjoy doing it, and the teachers and students I work with make it clear they enjoy the relationship as well."

At the beginning of each school year, Leibrock asks his students, "What is the most important issue or opportunity you will face, your community will face and your country will face in the next year?"

The younger students’ answers are fairly predictable, but the seventh graders’ answers are both interesting and somewhat surprising. Their personal concerns focus on the usual: homework, peer pressure, sports, etc. But their concerns for community reflect the popular concerns about overgrowth, teen-age violence and gangs. Concerns for their country focus a great deal on violence that could touch their lives.

Despite their weighty concerns, however, about half the students said their heroes were family members and teachers. But that didn’t surprise Leibrock, who cites Lee Iacocca’s quote, "In a completely logical world, we would choose to be teachers. Those of us who couldn’t, would have to take something less."

Perhaps that’s why Leibrock, once he’s retired from Cooperative Extension, plans to earn his teaching certificate and become one of those who chose to be teachers.