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Teacher turns problem class around

DANVILLE -- Most Central Illinois schools have their last day of class Friday and in Danville there's at least one teacher who's not looking forward to it.
DANVILLE -- Most Central Illinois schools have their last day of class Friday and in Danville there's at least one teacher who's not looking forward to it.

"It's become my family and tomorrow is my last day with them. May never see them again."

Randy Skaggs is only a substitute, but he taught these kids for several months. However, he won't get to come back. A 6th grade teacher at Southview Middle School left during the school year.

The class went through several subs. However, Skaggs stayed, and just by sticking around, he changed their lives. At 12-years old Zaiman Martinez now knows that a firm handshake will get him anywhere.

"When we do that its a sign of respect," says Martinez.

He learned that from Randy Skaggs the guy who was just supposed to fill in.

"Before I had F's and D's. Now I have A's and B's. So he's pretty good, he's improved everybody," says Martinez.

It wasn't easy. The class, also known as Team 103, had quite a reputation.

"When you walk into a building, they ask you, 'what room do you have?' I said, 'I have room 103,' and it was like, 'oh my,'" says Skaggs.

Skaggs says the students weren't disciplined, but he kept them in their books by helping them be successful. In three months everything changed.

"The first thing I wanted to do was give them hope so I gave them assignments they were able to pass. Once one person started passing at a higher level then it became contagious," says Skaggs.

At the beginning of the year, every student on this team was in the red, or failing. Now almost all of them are in the green which means their math and reading skills are at grade level.

Team 103 is celebrating that accomplishment with a party at the YMCA, reading apology letters to their first teacher who didn't stay.

"It's a group of kids that I don't know how many people really believed they could accomplish anything, and now to see how disciplined they are, and how respectful. They believe they can do anything in the world just like anybody else. And I don't think they had that dream when they first came," says Skaggs.

Martinez didn't, but now knows he can go to the moon, literally.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"I was thinking of being a astronaut," says Martinez.

There is an open position at Southview Middle School. Skaggs can't fill it permanently because he doesn't have the right teaching certificate.

If you have story ideas to share with Amanda Porterfield contact her!
Email: aporterfield@wcia.com, Twitter: @WCIA3AMANDA.
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