A Switch of Plans

A Familiar Face at Pine Grove Elementary Shines as the Newest Sixth Grade Teacher

Mr. Atherton teaches on a recent day at his alma mater, Pine Grove Elementary School.

Mr. Atherton teaches on a recent day at his alma mater, Pine Grove Elementary School.

A noticeable room in the upper left wing of Pine Grove Elementary School is Mr. Cam Atherton’s sixth grade classroom, where lights dim for reading time with a few students sprawled out, hidden behind an art easel. On the other side of the room children with their eyes laser focused on their desk complete a basic algebra test. 

“He’s really funny and not really strict,” said Jake, a student in Atherton’s class, “You can trust him, like you can say ‘Hey I don’t think I’m really good at math’ and you can say stuff to him and he’ll always help.” 

Several of Atherton’s  students were very excited to share their thoughts on their young and lively sixth grade teacher. The enthusiasm for Atherton’s new position was reflected by others around the school who have taught him as well as the ones he teaches. 

While attending college in Boston at Emmanuel as a Criminal Justice major, the dream of going into the federal justice system shifted for Atherton when he started filling in for teachers throughout Pine Grove. He eventually earned a teaching degree and a spot as a sixth grade teacher. 

Atherton himself attended Pine Grove as a kid, familiar with the school although major renovations have been done since then. When his mom told him he needed a job towards the end of his college years, she was able to draw him into subbing at the school. Little did he know that his temporary position would quickly become teaching a class for the whole year because of a medical leave.

“I was thrown into the fire, I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” said Atherton. “Even though I was a substitute teacher, I came in every day as if I was that group of kids’ teacher.”

Atherton adapted easily to the situation he was thrown into, having to teach during the pandemic, a very unexpected and ever-changing year. This meant virtually teaching to students he had not been familiar with and dealing with the technological struggles that came along with it. Nothing could stop his passion and determination to become a full time teacher and his work ethic paid off, quickly making a strong impact in the 6th grade classroom. 

“I had wanted to be a teacher. I was a little bit up in the air between criminal justice and teacher, and I chose criminal justice, so I already had the desire to teach,” said Atherton. Becoming a teacher was not an unfamiliar idea to him as he had previously thought about this career path but didn’t follow through until his senior year of college. 

The staff at Pine Grove proved to be extremely supportive to Atherton, seeming more like a family than a group of coworkers. He thinks of it as the perfect spot to be and work for, especially the lead administrators at this school. 

“The dedication that he had and the passion that he had for helping students was something that stuck out to me,” said Nicole LaPerriere, the Principal at Pine Grove. “Because I saw in him his dedication, his knowledge, his work ethic, just how he was able to build relationships with students, I felt as the principal it was time to give him the chance to shine in a classroom.”

LaPerriere made it very clear how passionate she is about hiring Cam as a full time teacher as well as how positive he is that he will make a difference in the lives of his own students as well as others throughout Pine Grove. 

“He blew me away with how well he adapted to teaching sixth grade, and also if you take a step back it was during Covid,” said LaPerriere. “He was thrown into a classroom where it was the middle of Covid, he was teaching hybrid, he didn’t know any of these students, he didn’t know the curriculum, yet he nailed it.” 

A supportive teacher who creates a fun and productive environment for their students is exactly what every young student dreams of. Atherton continuously strives for bettering himself as a teacher and is also reflected through Erica Geyer’s words, his mentor at Pine Grove and a well-loved fifth grade teacher there.

“There’s a lot of great things that he’s actually given me great insight on”, said Geyer. “It’s definitely going to be one of those experiences where I’m going to learn just as much from him.” 

Mr. Atherton has shown so much value in his short career at Pine Grove. The community has gained a great 6th grade teacher that will make the learning experience very valuable and memorable to his students. The environment that he was placed in could not have fit him better, with staff always willing to give a helping hand no matter what grade is being taught. It is a safe and comfortable place that will only benefit the students. Walking into school knowing the teachers want to be there and wanting to help make a huge mood change in the students.  

Being unsure exactly what one wants to do with one’s life can be confusing. Even when one is set out to start a certain profession things can change and often for the better. This is exactly how Atherton’s life laid out the past few years and he could not be any happier ending up at Pine Grove.