Ben Plechaty, a fifth grade teacher, his wife, who teaches second grade, and his two sons, who are nine and five, are together at Manatee Elementary. “It is really great being there, watching your kids every day,” he commented.

He started college planning to be an engineer, but things changed for Plechaty. “I was coaching a rec soccer team, and I looked forward to the games and practices every day, but I never got excited about my engineering classes.” That realization, along with the support of his parents, caused him to switch to education; he recognized what he enjoyed and what brought fulfillment was working with young people.

He settled on fifth grade because, “It is an interesting age. They are intelligent, independent and old enough to have great interaction with you, but they are young enough to think you have some useful ideas, too.”

Though his parents separated early, he maintained a very positive relationship with his father and his stepfather. “My parents taught me that if an activity isn’t good for the kids, it probably isn’t good for the adults. That is the approach my wife and I have taken with our kids, and it has worked pretty well — a sort of family-first philosophy,” he said.

“Kids force you to be less egocentric and to manage your time well,” he said. As a teacher and coach, he is occasionally approached for parenting advice. “I remember someone asked me for counsel and I had just read a text from my son’s kindergarten teacher, because he had slugged another student. ‘Who am I?’ I thought, but I remember someone once told me when I was a new parent that ‘The days are long, but the years are short.’ I’ve never forgotten that.”