Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Emerson Excellence in Teaching

I've recently gotten a few press releases concerning Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards that local teachers have earned.
Here's what is online about the award:

"The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards program, sponsored by Emerson, annually recognizes more than 100 teachers – from kindergarten to college professors – who are examples of excellence in the field of education in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Recipients are selected by the chief administrators of their school districts or educational institutions. Only teachers who have completed three or more years of employment at their current school are eligible to be selected. The employing educational institution must be located in the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is defined to include: (in Missouri) Franklin County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, St. Louis City, St. Louis County; and (in Illinois) Jersey County, Madison County, Monroe County, and St. Clair County."

That said, I've been thinking about teachers who have had a profound impact on my life in some way. I started at the middle school level since I view those as more impacting than my younger years. Plus, my earlier school years were riddled with bad things and teachers may have been helping me without my knowledge. It's hard to tell.
Some of them I may not remember, but here are my nominees:

Middle School:
Mrs. Starnes- my 7th grade geography teacher. She might have taught more than geography, but that is what I remember most about her. This woman, headstrong and strict on the outside, was sweet and understanding. Besides teaching me clever ways to remember where countries are (I still remember Iran to Iraq to get some Turkey, and that was before the whole Middle East debacle officially began), she taught me compassion and honesty. She was willing to let me come sit in her room for "tutoring" even though I didn't need to be tutored. She kept me company and while many only saw the rough exterior, they would have been pleasantly surprised if they had searched further.

High School:
Mrs. Susan McKee- my first ever journalism teacher. I was drafted into her class after a middle school teacher (to this day I have no idea who) suggested I would be a good candidate to be amongst the first freshmen allowed in the class. I dropped out of art to take the course. I never was much of an artist anyway, and for sure I never looked back.

Mrs. McKee sparked my first interest in journalism, which essentially is why I am where I am today. She took her job seriously and liked it as much as we did. My sophomore year, she took time out of her summer to take 4 girls, myself included, to a journalism bootcamp at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She also held a barbeque at her home for us where she presented us with awards. Everyone got an award ranging from "nose for news" to "best historical writer" and others.

Her background wasn't in journalism, it was in English, but she took the class as a challenge and was always ready to deal with consequences we brought her.

She let us "report" on a wide variety of issues and expected more out of us than the average teacher. She pushed us to excel and find out the truth. She let us be flexible and determine who we were as writers, which is important at a young age. She didn't hover over our every move, almost trusting us like adults but still guiding us. She trusted us to do the right thing. Sometimes we took advantage of that trust, venturing out into the lunch room during certain shifts to sit with our friends, but I think she knew and liked us none the less.

She was supportive when I refused to take an advanced placement course (that I certainly should have taken) to pursue something else, and even when I left high school not planning on entering journalism immediately.

If I had to choose the high school teacher that impacted my life the most, it would be Mrs. McKee, hands down.

Other high school teachers I really enjoyed include:

Mr. Hertlein, my drafting and design teacher. I had him for three years in high school, each year exploring architecture a little more, and continually asking when we would get to draw houses rather than car parts. He put up with my complaining, year after year, and embraced my presence in an almost all boys class. He was encouraging and helpful, even though deep down he must have known I didn't possess the math skills (or probably the attention to detail, like where light switches are placed and what not) I would need to become a cad drafter.

Mrs. Buchholz- my spanish teacher. I had her for two years in high school. She was another teacher who some saw as demanding and tough. I like that in teachers. I love language and it was clear that she did too. She took a foreign material and made it fun to learn. It frustrated me that when students who didn't have her for Spanish I joined our class for Spanish II, she had to go back and reteach several lessons. She was an amazing teacher, and I'm sure she still is. She wouldn't let students get away with anything (no translators please!) and expected us to act mature and try to learn.

Coach, God, I can't even remember his name. I had him for weight training. He was tough and mean, and kicked several people out of his class for not wanting to try. He encouraged me to take the second class but I didn't have enough electives. He told me if I couldn't at least do two pull ups and squat 1 1/2 times my body weight at the end of the semester I would fail the class (Failing was never an option for me). He was a bad English teacher (I think they made him teach something besides gym classes), and I'm pretty sure he completely forgot to make us turn in our copies of "Of Mice and Men" but rocked as a weight training coach.

And finally, Mrs. Curtman-Schroeder., my English III teacher, She was mean and demanding, or so people thought. Really, she just wanted us to do our work and learn. Sometimes high school kids have a problem with that. She made us write journals every day (which everyone complained about but I secretly loved) on a certain topic. She made us to umpteen projects to increase our understanding of the subject matter. She would hand out a calendar of assignments at the beginning of the month. She didn't make a fuss if you didn't turn in your work, you simply failed. Many had a problem with that, since many teachers would let us turn in stuff late and weren't too particular. The projects would range from creating posters, to writing poems or songs, to making book covers and other things. She encouraged creativity. She loved the classics (Huckleberry Finn and the Great Gatsby were required reading assignments for all students) and took teaching them to the next level. She didn't like slackers and even started charging 5 or 10 cents for pencils and paper when students didn't come prepared to her class, and that was before they put those machines in the hall with pencils and paper.

Sorry, the more I thought about it, the more teachers I came up with! And I didn't wantto leave people out.

Mrs. Bertrand, high school speech teacher. She was an incredible speech teacher and didn't let her disability (she was in a wheelchair) effect her whatsoever. She was a tough grader and made each and every students overcome one of people's biggest fears: public speaking. She made us do demonstrations, research, collect, present, convince, and even debate, which was one of my favorite speeches.

Mr. Gehlauf, my fun marketing teacher. Honestly, I only took his class because it was a requirement to get credit for having a job. Since I had three in high school, I figured I might as well get out of school an hour early and go an hour late just because I can. But once I had him for class I learned a lot about business and marketing. I had fun learning these things and even considered a career in marketing or advertising. Mr. Gehlauf was, and I'm sure still is, and amazing teacher.

ooh, and Mrs. Richardson. I guess I just had a lot of good high school teachers.

East Central College:

Mr. Russ Henderson, my American history to 1877 teacher. Mr. Henderson actually was a recipient of the Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award. When I found out, I wasn't surprised at all. Although History wasn't my favorite class ever, he made learning fun and challenged us to think outside of the box. He made us learn things so that past history wasn't all we were learning, but life lessons that we actually could use and apply to our daily lives. He was a tough grader and to this day, I haven't met anyone who said they received an A from him. Despite that, I learned more in his class than many other classes and what I learned I still find useful today. Once, Mr. Henderson had to have surgery. Rather than canceling class, he videotaped it. Someone came in, took attendance, started the video and left. So although he couldn't physically be in class, he made sure he still did his part to teach us, again, more than U.S. history. He expected us to be in class, on time (and I had his class at 7:40 a.m.!), to take good notes, to read the book and to learn.

Ms. Jennifer Sommer, my spanish teacher. Ms. Sommer was an incredible teacher. Maybe it's just because I like language, but she made Spanish fun. She taught us games and wasn't afraid to be silly in front of a bunch of college students. Not only that, Mrs. Sommer had a heart of gold. She was compassionate, understanding and a great teacher. She travels to Guatemala each year with the doctors and dentists to act as a translator. She would show us pictures and it was clear that she really cared about the people she helped. She immersed students in the Spanish culture and made learning something we wanted to do.

Webster University...will have to come at a later date.

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