We have some pretty amazing people here at The Starr Conspiracy. Occasionally, we’ll take some time to tell you stories from within our shiny, new walls. We’ll archive these stories with the hashtag #TSCagents. I hope we can show you why we like these people so much.
Outliers. The “obviously distinct” are fascinating in numbers and in people. Outliers can either tell the story, or be brushed aside as statistically irrelevant. America’s public school system, though she tries, typically caters to the middle ground. Students who are far ahead of their peers must fight to stay interested in topics they were quick to grasp and students who are far behind their peers must fight to keep up. For the past two years, writer Lou Chapman has spent two days per week working closely with 1st grade outliers at Fort Worth’s Springdale Elementary in teacher Kelly Gillham’s dual-language classroom.
At The Starr Conspiracy, Lou is our in-house “why” guy and his passion for nurturing critical thinking and answering the “whys” of life are the common thread in Lou’s range of hobbies. Whether he’s teaching yoga, capturing oddities and experiences with photography or asking critical questions for clients in his “day job” at TSC, Lou is a creative catalyst.
Between his former life as a journalist in New York, New Orleans, Denver and Fort Worth, and his current commitments to nurturing students, yogis, and artists, Lou has affected more positive change in Fort Worth than most. But it’s clear that Springdale Elementary is special to Lou. The way he gets lost in a moment describing an experience with the students is unmistakable — love. “Mrs. Gillham, can I go with Mr. Chapman?” his voice gets high-pitched as he mimics the students’ excitement, eyes wandering with a smile.
Teacher Kelly remembers the same phenomenon:
“Working with Lou is a true blessing for me and for the children. I often felt a sense of relief and encouragement just to see him walk through my classroom door, like a soldier must feel when seeing reinforcement and backup arrive. The children’s response to him walking through the door was more like that toward some celebrity or rock star — leaping out of their seats, shouting his name, embracing him, and an immediate appeal to me to be one of those chosen to work in small group with him.”
It’s easy to see why the students would gravitate to Lou. He’s personable, funny, and proficient at the lost art of really listening. Lou worked with students at both ends of the outlier spectrum — basic arithmetic with students who needed extra help and research projects with students who were aiming for the “gifted and talented program” at Springdale.
In both cases, Lou says what the students need is some personal attention.
Kelly agreed and said that Lou’s work with the students did more than help them learn math, “[Their] educational development was also enhanced emotionally, socially and psychologically.” And they’ve had an effect on him too. Lou talks about working with Kelly to promote empathetic qualities like compassion and diligence, focusing on the merit of what’s beyond academics.
He wistfully describes arriving to the year-end party in May — again with a childlike high pitch, “Mr. Chapman’s here!” — but his work is far from over.
Lou has worked with The Starr Conspiracy executive team to create a partnership with the Adopt-A-School program at Springdale Elementary. Next year, TSC agents will be participating in regular programs with Springdale, including a proposed club program based on interests like photography or computer skills for the students.
We’ll be hoping to follow in Lou’s footsteps.
In a world where Honey Boo Boo represents the first graders of America, Lou has his students conducting six-week-long research projects using digitized encyclopedias and word processing software.
“I’ve always been, you know, scholastic, for lack of a better word,” he remembered growing up surrounded by books. Lou also says being raised Jewish taught him to ask questions and not to blindly accept authority.
“That’s probably why I’m such a smartass,” he smiled.
For those of us who are lucky enough to know Lou, his work with Springdale is another pleasant surprise in a long-haired, meditating enigma.
And for those of you who are familiar with The Starr Conspiracy, perhaps a company-wide volunteer initiative is a surprise as well. But if you’ve been paying attention to the latest we’ve been sharing about Drive — it might help you to know that our Drive at TSC is to be the best [at anything].
Preventing brain drain and giving our time and efforts to the city of Fort Worth is an extension of that Drive.
As for whether or not Lou will be back to Springdale next year? “Oh yeah,” he said.