A teacher's influence transformed his
life forever, Dr. Robert Barr
told educators at Denton's Lee Elementary School last week.
speaks to teachers and staff members at Lee Elementary School
about improving programs for at-risk students on Tuesday
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was in first grade, Barr
principal met with his
family and told them "Robert
is not very smart" and "he's
totally lacking in ability.
It was suggested that he
be held back a grade, Barr
Attending that same meeting, Barr said, was a teacher who touched him on the shoulder as she spoke on his behalf.
said the teacher told the principal, "I know Robert
has deficiencies and challenges, but I believe if he
advances to the second grade, he
won't let us down."
said the teacher was convinced that if his
determination could be strengthened, he
could become great.
spoke about his
illiterate family of produce farmers and how neither of his
parents received a formal education past third grade.
But when the teacher helped him advance to second grade with his
class, that set his
life on a new path, he
said, and he
became the first in his
family to finish elementary school and, eventually, college.
encouraged the audience of school administrators to overlook children's circumstances and to motivate and educate them.
said there's nothing more powerful than a teacher's impact.
"When you look in the eyes of your children ... do not let your expectations because of the color of their skin, how they speak ... set expectations for how you think of them," he
"If teachers believe in you, anything is possible."
has written eight research books on at-risk youth and strategies for school improvement.
He is an international speaker and has worked as a consultant with school districts in more than 40 states.
Barr has served as an educator at Indiana University and Oregon State University and as a senior analyst for Boise State University's Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies.
is consulting Denton's 14 Title 1 schools - campuses with a large percentage of students from low-income households.
held a session with principals from Denton's Title 1 campuses last week and conducted sessions with staff members at Lee, Borman and Hodge elementary schools Tuesday
shared tips for improving the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.
also discussed his
research, school improvement strategies being implemented nationwide and the idea of family inclusion in child development.
Chris Shade, director of federal programs for Denton schools, said that Barr was brought in by the district to conduct professional development sessions with an emphasis on closing an achievement gap between at-risk and high-performing students.
Last week, Barr
stressed the importance of early instruction in basic reading and math skills.
Research shows that a student who doesn't efficiently grasp such skills could develop a behavior problem and eventually drop out of school or end up in jail, Barr
"This is a matter of life and death," Barr