June Top Notch Teacher: Chris Schams

Schams has taught 2nd grade for 23 years

Music has the power to change lives, and that’s the focus of an elementary school teacher from Northern Hills who has spent 23 years in the Onalaska School District.

Every day, second-grade teacher Chris Schams plays his class song with a guitar. He said music sets the right tone in his classroom.

“We make a class song every year. This year’s is ‘All of Me’ by John Legend,” Schams said.

The catchy notes of the song get his students involved every day during the school year.

“I put them in groups, and we talk about what’s important when you come to school, what’s important about school, what are some rules about school, what are some good classroom rules, and then they discuss those things and we come back and put it to music,” Schams said.

His music and smile are part of a bigger message.

“I think it’s important for kids to want to come to school,” Schams said.

It all begins when his students walk through his door.

“Every morning, I greet them at the door. We get a handshake and eye contact. That’s a must,” Schams said. “That helps me see how their morning has been, and it makes me forget about everything as well. Now it’s here for them. It’s their time.”

Students said his positive attitude makes them believe they can achieve anything.

“It’s a little more easier for me because then I know I can do something, and it makes me feel brave,” student Destinee Freybler said.

“When I was going to write a book, I didn’t really want to write the book, and then Mr. Schams said take a risk and try to do it, so I made my own book and I did it,” Ella Ballmer said.

“I feel happy, and sometimes I have happy tears,” Ben Templis said.

While the melody to this song may end with the school year, the lessons learned in Schams’ classroom will carry with them forever.

“Our classroom rule is think big, believe big, act big, and the results will be big,” Schams said.

Schams has also added coaching seventh-grade softball to his resume.

Schams has taught in all three elementary schools in Onalaska during his 23 years in the district.