By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
'Why is there this big dude in our class?'
That's the question 44-year-old Kevin Carr's classmates asked themselves the first day he attended Todd Grandjean's Texas history class.
'But it all turned out all right,' said Jorge Torrez, 12.
He and his 20 peers couldn't think of a single disadvantage at having a classmate like Carr.
'There's nothing bad,' Torrez said
Group work with Carr poses no problem.
'It's just like any other group,' said Bree Nava, 12. 'Work distribution is even and fair.'
Carr's decision to come back to school makes his new classmates say, 'Wow.'
'Well, I think it's a little weird,' Torrez said, grinning at Carr. 'I wouldn't be coming back to school unless I was forced.'
After a pause, Torrez said he admires his new friend.
'He's smart and outgoing,' Torrez said. 'I think it's cool that he's doing this.'
Emory Sutton, 13, sees Carr's determination as a sign of courage.
'He's strong to come back and try again,' Sutton said. 'I've helped him, and he helps me. It's kind of cool to have him around. It's like he's everyone's big brother.'
Carr hasn't experienced any of the cruelty he remembers from his youth.
'When I was a kid, they would pick on me and stare at me,' Carr said. 'Now we pick on each other, but not in a mean way. It's teasing. I like the kids.
'Who's teaching whom?
Seventh-grade history teacher Todd Grandjean says having Carr in class is worth a million textbooks.
'Because of his life experiences, (Carr) has a lot he can share with the students,' Grandjean said. 'He's been to places the kids have never been, like the Alamo.'
Of the 34 students Grandjean will take to the Alamo next semester, the trip will be a repeat for only seven.
Carr said he's visited the Czech Republic and Europe in addition to several of the U.S. cities that dot the map hanging in his history class.
'His comments and description bring life to the lesson,' Grandjean said. 'I'm actually worried he'll come in one day knowing more than me.'
'That's not going to happen,' Carr said.
Grandjean shook his head in disagreement.
'It could,' Grandjean said.
The teacher said his student has already taught him an important lesson.
'When there's just a tad bit of adversity, most people will give up. I do it myself,' Grandjean said. 'And that makes me ashamed. If he's able to accomplish everything he does, well, then it's shameful for the rest of us to give up.'
Perhaps the most valuable thing about having Carr in his class, Grandjean said, is the way the students are learning how to interact with him.
'There's mutual respect and enjoyment,' Grandjean said. 'If their minds are opened to people who are in situations like his, then they'll be more receptive of people who are different in the future. And that's something they'll be able to teach their kids.'