ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Greg Seitz strides across the dimly lit computer lab at Conway School, pressing a button here, offering a word of encouragement there, looking quite comfortable among the sixth-graders he teaches.
Unlike some other teachers, he doesn't mind if his students talk in class. That's understandable, because Greg is a sixth-grader himself.
He asks the five students in his class to write a 33-line document so they can learn the computer's keyboard. But they groan. Apparently, 33 lines is just too much.
But their teacher doesn't back down.
"Hey, I'm going easy on you," he says, with the ease of a veteran teacher.
Pleased With Progress
He ambles over to another student.
"How're you holding up, Aaron?" the 11-year-old asks a short, freckle-faced boy who's busy pounding on the keys of an Apple II-C. Aaron's letter begins with "Dear Mom," and he's making headway, which pleases Greg.
"You're making the most progress of anyone in this room," says the young teacher.
Aaron says he likes having Greg teach his computer class, "because it's not somebody I don't know." In a way, he says, having Greg as a teacher is better than having someone older.
"He teaches it in a way that's easier for me to understand," says Aaron, whose parents have a computer at home.
Greg's computer wizardry has come in handy at Conway School, according to Greg's teacher, Ron Jahelka.
The school has had a computer lab with five computers since September. But the school did not have a teacher to staff the lab, which is located in the library.
Jahelka had watched Greg work one-on-one with his classmates on two computers in his classroom.
"It was apparent he really enjoyed that contact and was good at it," Jahelka says. "Greg was able to keep the students moving ahead on their assignments and handle it fairly maturely."
So Jahelka let Greg teach classes in the lab.
The experiment has worked well. Greg coaches the students without being overbearing or offensive, Jahelka says, and they respect Greg's knowledge.
Greg is the first to admit he wasn't always a whiz at teaching or at computers.
"When I was in the third grade, I didn't even know the word 'computer,' " he says. But he learned quickly, and his third-grade teacher at Conway asked him to help some students in the class.
"I started taking in a couple kids a day on the computer, and I tell you, I wasn't very good at it," he remembers. "I was terrible. I got stage fright."
Back then, the kids complained that he spent all their computer time figuring out how to teach them. It wasn't until sixth grade that he began teaching again, and this time he was ready.
Now he's very protective of his students, referring to them as "my class."
Despite his obvious talents, Greg doesn't think he's that different from his friends.
"I think of myself as a normal kid. I don't think I'm some kind of child prodigy," he says.
At the school's open house, Greg manned the computer lab, explaining to all the parents who visited that he was the computer teacher.
Next year, Greg will enter the program for gifted students at Grant Middle School.
"He has a super intellect," Jahelka said.