Tonight a joint post on two of my blogs the Ministry of Happiness and Higher Ed Mentor. It’s been a crazy year in education and as we wrap up the fall semester and I’m seeing what some of my faculty are doing to help students, and helping some students get their teachers to do what they should, I started thinking back on my own teachers.
Teachers are such an incredible part of everyone’s life, it’s rare that someone doesn’t have some teacher along the way that did something amazing and impactful in their life. For those of us who have decided to work in education, this is especially so. Tonight I wanted to just reach back and thank some of the most impactful teachers in my life.
First of all thank you to all of my teachers and teachers in general, it’s a much tougher job than people realize and an incredibly important job in our society. I think the first teacher I have to thank is my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Garno. She showed up at my house one night to express her concerns about me to my mother, and officially was the first teacher to call me on my shit. You see, I was a street kid from the wrong side of the tracks and ran with some serious juvenile delinquents. I pulled a lot of shit in school but I had learned early on, if you were a white kid with straight A’s, you could almost always get away with pointing the finger at someone else. But somehow, Mrs. Garno saw through that and actually prevented me from participating in something extremely stupid, thank you.
I have to thank my third grade teacher Mrs. Nicholson for making me feel special. That woman loved me, she believed in me, she saw potential in me no else had seen and she wasn’t shy in telling me about it. And she kept up with my life until the day she died. She was one of the few people in my early life who made me feel like I could be someone special.
In eighth grade I got put into an advanced math class, doing high school work in junior high. Ms. Spinelli, in addition to being smoking hot, (that was impactful to a 14 year-old boy), she was also a great teacher. It was in her class that she brought out the best in me academically and made me realize that my path to success in life would certainly start with academics.
In high school I had two teachers who were married to each other, one in Biology and one in Calculus who taught me how to be rigorous academically, whatever academic success I had in college is in some part to the skills imparted on me by Ma and Pa Russell.
The greatest teacher I ever had was my 4 year, high school English teacher Frank Sullivan at Hudson High School in New York. He has been the best teacher I’ve ever seen in action. When I became a teacher I emulated him more than anyone else I’d ever seen teach. He was crazy, active, dramatic and he hit us with what was really important in life and he did so while expanding my cultural experience on a massive scale.
As an undergrad at SUNY Plattsburgh I had one truly unique teacher, Larry Schaffer. I took his elective Biopsychology class because I had gotten to know him a bit and because of what everyone said about his class. Of course the semester I took the class he completed revamped it and we spent time working through in a discussion format, books by Stephen Jay Gould. What Larry showed me was that it was a ok to be a personality as a college teacher and the importance of being willing to shake up what you do, even if it was already successful. He also emulated what a student centered caring professor looked like.
As an undergraduate I had student teaching assignments and as a student teacher at Plattsburgh Junior High School I worked with Maynard Jubert. They called him Mr. Science and he was a master at active learning. He taught me so much about integrating hands-on activities into the classroom setting and how to do so in such a way that it enhanced the flow of the classroom.
The last teacher I’ll talk about is Professor Philpott at UTK. I took his graduate level multi-variate statistic class as an audit because I needed one technique within the class. But the class was so good I attended every class and even took the exams. What made his class so good was that as an education major I had always been taught that the best thing you could do is to teach every concept three ways. Talk through it, show it visually and then have students experience it with their hands. Philpott said he would do this in multi-variate stats, and he did. He had this crazy board with coat hangars set into it that he would bend around and then stretch a knit cap across it to allow you to hold an actual three dimensional model of every function we discussed, a true master class in teaching and statistics.
So thank you to all of them and all of you who teach, you do so much and have impacts you’ll never know about but are so important, to so many people.