Sunday, February 8, 2015

Why I Love Teaching, Part 1

It is Why Do You #LoveTeaching Week across America.  My friends Gary Abud (2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year) and Sean McComb (2014 National Teacher of the Year) are behind this project.  As this infographic suggests, teachers all over the country will be blogging and tweeting stories about why they love teaching.

Yes, the education profession is the subject of intense talk these days, and not all of it is positive.  #LoveTeaching cuts through all that and takes us directly to people.  After all, teaching is a most human and humane enterprise.  And since teaching is about people, I decided to make my first post on #LoveTeaching about those who influenced me, my own teachers.

From Kindergarten through graduate school, I was blessed to be a student of some of the finest educators.  I thought so at the time because, well, they were my teachers, and it is the natural state of affairs for children to love their teachers.  After twenty-four years of teaching at the middle school, high school, community college, and university levels, I can confidently say that I was right.  These are the reasons I #LoveTeaching.

Irvin Goldstein - 6th grade
Mr. Goldstein taught 6th grade at Slate Run Elementary School in New Albany, Indiana.  He prepared us as no one else could have for the world of higher learning we would encounter in junior high.  He sparked and developed my love of writing, and I owe him a debt to this day.

Linda DeRungs - high school choir
Mrs. DeRungs was my high school choir director.  I still find myself singing pieces from her choirs such as "Sicut Cervus," "Ave Maria," and "Ave Verum," even when I am going about the business of daily life.  I remember once asking her what sort of shoes we should wear for an upcoming concert, and she remarked the grey ones I had would be perfect.  I was stunned.  She had seen me wear a certain pair of shoes and remembered.  I make it a point today to comment on the clothes and personal items of my students because of her.

Jim Dickman (center) - high school Calculus
Jim Dickman is a brilliant force of nature.  He taught me racquetball and Calculus, but more importantly, he modeled the life of the intellect lived out in the public square.  Because he was a true master of his subject, mathematics, he was able to make it accessible to those just starting on its journey.  I continue to talk with younger teachers about the importance of subject mastery for the effectiveness of teaching.

Alice Ranck Hettle -- sophmore & junior Latin
Simply put, I would not be doing what I am doing were it not for Miss Ranck.  Even though she retired at the end of my junior year to marry her high school sweetheart, she had already given me my life's direction.  Were I to describe the full measure of her influence, the Internet would crash.  She was a scholar and teacher of the first order, and there is not a day that goes by that her influence is not felt by the students in my own classroom.

Marcene Farley - senior Latin
Marcene (Holverson) Farley was my Latin teacher during my senior year, yet despite that I had her as a teacher for only one year, she remains a dear friend and colleague.  Not a month passes that we do not talk about education issues, she in Illinois now and I in Indiana.  She has been one of my greatest champions and cheerleaders from high school, in college, and throughout my teaching career.  She is a daily reminder and model to me of what true investment in the life of a child should look like, an investment I endeavor to repay in the lives of my own students.

Dr. Timothy Long (center) - Indiana University Classics 
Tim Long taught me Greek and became my friend.  It is as simple as that.  While I will always remember his teaching me the foundations of Greek, it is his friendship that I cherish above all.  I spent time in his office discussing heartbreak issues over the girl I was dating, and it was no surprise, but a great honor, when he attended our wedding a few years later.  I see him almost every time I am in Bloomington and have consulted him countless times on Classics-related questions over the years.  He regularly met with my students when we used to take an AP Latin trip to IU, and when he retired, we established a scholarship in his name at my high school.  In ways my students will never know, he is teaching them every day.

Dr. Betty Rose Nagle - Indiana University Classical Studies
 Betty Rose taught the first and the last Latin classes of my undergraduate career.  As a freshman I had her for Cicero and as a senior for Ovid.  I will never forget her teaching me crucial aspects of how to write at the collegiate level during that freshman class, and today we remain friends on Facebook.  As a go-to person whenever I have a Classics question, she is the perfect example of the lifelong relationship between teachers and students.

Dr. Eleanor Winsor Leach - Indiana University Classical Studies
Ellie Leach led me through the poetic works of Horace and Catullus, and through her I learned why certain (naughty) words were not listed in my dictionary!  My wife was fortunate to have her as well, and when she attended our wedding, it was an honor.  Even more striking to us was when she remembered us as we ran into her on campus years later.  I was blessed a few years ago to give away one of my former students in marriage, having been asked by both her and her mother, and I could not help thinking of Ellie and what it means for teachers to be deeply involved in the lives of their students.

Dr. Michael Gagarin - The University of Texas Classics
Michael taught my first graduate seminar in Classics, which was on the Greek Sophists.  When he asked me to share in the seminar something I had written in one of my papers, I was flattered and overwhelmed.  I had the great fortune of teaching his daughter later when she was in my high school Latin class in Austin, Texas, and when he spoke a few years ago at Wabash College, I had to make the trip to see him.

Dr. William Nethercut - The University of Texas Classics
I knew Bill in two completely different ways.  First, I knew him as my professor of Medieval Latin and then through his wife, Jane, a high school Latin teacher in Austin who was my colleague.  Bill brought the pure joy of life to his work as a teacher and scholar.  He was constantly laughing and smiling, and it is that sort of atmosphere I strive to create with my students today.  After all, Latin and Classics are part of the humanities, which means they are about people, and human endeavor should principally focus on life.

I wish I had pictures of all my teachers from Kindergarten through graduate school.  I can remember almost every one of them and have many stories to tell.  Instead, I will let this simple graphic, reminiscent of the Vietnam memorial, share their names.  Some have passed on, although many are still with us.  Each contributed one of the many reasons I #LoveTeaching.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, what a beautiful post about those who have invested in you and helped you become the wonderful teacher you are! <3


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