If you ask Thomas Wallace what brought him to Welches he'll tell you it was because Welches Schools were hiring when many others weren't. If you ask why he remained — it was the people.
"I was only going to stay a couple of years," he admitted. "But, the people and the area and the school got under my skin, and I stayed."
Wallace is originally from Eugene and he received his bachelor's degrees in history and elementary education from Oregon State University.
As a child, he never considered becoming a teacher, but eventually he found it was THE career for him.
"School was not a priority," Wallace said. "I didn't quite fit into the cliques. I'm a person who enjoys athletics, but I also love reading about history. I was torn between two worlds and I was never happy. Then I found teaching."
When Wallace began college he was working toward a future as a high school teacher and football coach. However, he soon found his path changed.
"I got sent to a first grade classroom by accident," he explained. "It was a happy accident, so I changed my mind to become an elementary education major. They were so excited and wanted to learn. It just seemed to click. Something went off in my head and I thought 'This is where I need to be.'"
Wallace found his first permanent position at Welches. Now he's been there for 29 years, taught classes in grades second through eighth, and has no plans of stopping.
"I really enjoy what I teach for the time I'm there," he said.
Right now Wallace teaches a self-contained class of sixth-graders everything from social studies to math.
With this grade level in particular, Wallace explained that the challenge is "apathy."
"There's a lot of kids who just don't care how they do or what they do," he said. "(It's) unfortunate because there's so much they could do if they'd choose to. They don't really believe in themselves a lot."
Regardless of the students' attitudes, Wallace still enjoys coming to school every day and "constantly learning new things."
He is an avid reader of historical texts and the occasional work of fiction and appreciates being both participant and spectator in several different sports. He also enjoys researching and painting historical military miniatures.
"I learn a lot from the kids," he said. "They're so amazing in what they know and what they share. Kids teach us a lot."