In part one, we discussed a few problems the “good” public school I attended had. My experience there was overwhelmingly awful, but there were a few teachers who I believe deserve some recognition for the efforts and teaching styles. They were the few lights illuminating an otherwise dark, decrepit, and evil space of rotting teenage brain cells, they were the lone Newport loosies in a pile of Big Top rollies. As communities start to realize the importance of education, hopefully these, and other educators like them, will serve as examples of what we should be doing. I’m still learning from their memories today.
- Mr. Blake (Subjects: Advanced Biology, Microbiology, and Chemistry) liked to lecture in front of a giant, interactive white board. He drew cartoons of cell parts and cracked jokes about duck-billed platypuses; everyone paid attention during his lectures, not so much because they cared about Science, but because of how entertaining he was to watch and listen to. You never knew if he was about to break out into a few song lyrics or start strutting around doing the chicken dance and somehow both are related to the topic of cell mitochondria. He would rag on National Geographic repeating their articles every few years and act out phrases written in our textbooks. We were encouraged to take notes, but I never had to because I actively listened to his lectures and when questions on the tests referenced back to the material, I always could remember a funny anecdote or story he told in class. I realized he was using humor to make an oft-perceived as difficult subject (science) more approachable and less intimidating. I didn’t realize how we took his teaching style for granted and the easy learning his classroom promoted until I got a different teacher for my second semester of chemistry. I don’t even remember what the other teacher’s name was, but I do remember him being an angry fellow who seemed to hate teenagers and I didn’t do nearly as well in that class as I did in Blake’s. Blake, on the other hand, obviously loved his job and it was obvious he cared about his students by the time he took to personally ask them if they were having difficulty with the material and how he could help them.
- Mrs. Brna (Street Law) taught a few law classes that were electives at Roosevelt. She was a practicing attorney, but I believe she got into teaching as a hobby. I’m not 100% why she was teaching instead of enjoying that sweet, sweet lawyer money; she was older and retired soon after I quit public school. A friend and I choose her class as an elective because we heard there was no homework, she was an easy grader, and it was essentially a “blow-off class.” What we got was something much different. Each class was a huge group discussion about current events and how the law relates to them. Michigan had just legalized medical Marijuana, and we spent a large portion of class time discussing this. Unlike the gym teachers who had been responsible for our anti-drug education and immediately shot down any independent research we could find contradicting smoking pot would immediately lead to death by chimpanzee disembowelment, Brna encouraged discussing opposing viewpoints and challenging conventional norms. Instead of wondering weather or not it was okay to smoke pot, she had us questioning the motivations behind the lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies that keep the plant illegal. I learned more about how Big Money and Big Government works in her class that I did in American Government, and my interest in the legal system was born in her classroom. She pulled me aside at the end of the semester and asked what I was planning on doing after high school. “Honestly, I just want to sit on my ass and smoke pot.” I said with a shrug. She laughed and told me I’d make a hell of a lawyer. Her words stuck with me; I loved being in a class that let me exercise my mind and now that I’m finally old enough to go to college off my own taxes I decided to go back to persueing my interest in law.
- Mr. Lesko (Confirmation Class) taught our Sunday school class during grades 6 and 7. His class was difficult, full of homework, and we were expected to speak in class or loose points and possibly get a nasty note home to our parents. This was a Catholic religion class, and he got into a lot of trouble with the archbishop for what he was teaching us. Nothing was off-limits for class discussion or a homework assignment. We read and wrote book reports on The DaVinci Code, did group research projects about prophecies on the end of the world, and even debated in graphic details about the temptations of the flesh that could lead a priest to become a pedophile. One student eventually decided not to become an adult in the Catholic church because he felt the path of Buddhism called to him, and instead of trying to reconvert the student, Mr. Lesko said that God showed himself to people in different ways and he hoped that student found wisdom and enlightenment in his endeavors. He consistently defied authority in favor of what was “right,” and a champion of the ideas behind “free will” and “critical thinking skills.” I learned more in his class about how volatile ideas can be and the huge impact one seemingly insignificant human can have on the lives of countless others. Lesko cared more about us being intelligent adults capable of defending our faith with well-developed arguments and plenty of thought into the Big Questions (Why are we alive? What did God put us here to do? Is God even real? Why don’t penguins live by the North Pole, too?). Sometimes, he didn’t have an answer for us, and encouraged us to be curious enough to find the truth on our own.
Discuss in the comments the life lessons you learned from your favorite teachers.