This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. As an organization that believes in public education, we know that teachers who work tirelessly to create learning environments are vital to a strong educational system. To honor that commitment, we decided to each remember our favorite teachers and share our thoughts and memories about them.
Hugh Madden, communications director
John Delo was my high school biology and botany teacher, but he taught me much more than the subject matter at hand. Mr. Delo had a way of teaching about life while teaching us the parts of a flower. Our tests were open book, but the test covered things that he hadn’t covered in class. When we complained, he simply explained, “Life is an open book test. The key to understanding the world is to be resourceful because I can’t teach you everything you need to know, but if I can teach you how to find answers then you’ll be better off in life. Use your book, the answers are there.”
Years later, I still vividly remember class with Mr. Delo. He made school a fun place to be but made sure we learned a lot too. I think he’d be the first to admit that he wasn’t the exception to the rule and that all teachers do what they can to engage students.
Thanks for the science and life lessons, Mr. Delo.
Kim Hunter, social justice media coordinator
I encountered many great teachers in high school and college. But when I think of teachers, the first one that comes to mind is Ms. Clark from elementary school, probably grades 5 and 6. Sadly, I am dating myself by admitting she was a music appreciation teacher. This was not an instrumental (in my case, trumpet) class. It was a general music class taken by all students in Detroit Public Schools at the time.
Ms. Clark introduced us to, among other things, art, music, European and African American, Tchaikovsky, Ellington, Bach and Armstrong. That was the beginning of my lifelong appreciation, education and love affair with music. It has been invaluable and I will be forever grateful to her collection of vinyl records and banging stuff out on the upright piano.
Lonnie Scott, executive director
I could easily name twenty teachers or more who impacted my life in positive ways, but there is a stand out team of teachers who helped me along my way when I needed it most. Ms. Sheila McKay and Mrs. Kate Morris Curtin team-taught during my 7th grade year. I say I needed their guidance most because that was the same time in my life when my parents were going through their divorce. Ms. McKay in particular could tell that I was preoccupied with my environment and not focused on math (a subject she taught) and took it upon herself to ask me to stay and be her “helper” after school. The extra attention, the time spent away from a home that was breaking more by the minute is honestly what kept me interested in school and out of trouble. Looking back, I recognize the sacrifice she made for one student, but I realized that Ms. Curtin had done the same for another and that every great teacher I said I could name had done it too. I’ve always appreciated the teachers I have had and value those that I am still friends with, but it took becoming an adult with my own kids in school to recognize the daily sacrifice public school teachers make for our children. I can’t thank the teachers I had enough and even now I am struggling to not name all the great ones I encountered – to all of you, thank you. You’ve shaped my life more than you will ever know and I appreciate you more than words can say.
Denzel McCampbell, deputy communications director
I could write for days about my favorite teachers, what they taught me, and the sacrifices they made for their students without batting an eye, but there’s someone close to me that continues to inspire myself and others. My younger cousin, Tunisia recently graduated from Saginaw Valley State University and now teaches early education in a public school. For as long as I can remember, Tunisia has always been committed to teaching little children, recognizing the needs of our tiny people, and helping to harness the creativity and energy of our future leaders.
I wanted to highlight Tunisia because so often teachers are bashed and talked down about. Couple that with pay that does not match the profession, many young people are discouraged from entering the classroom. Public education is the cornerstone of our society and we should be encouraging everyone to teach our children. Tunisia has encountered many obstacles as I’ve watched her grow up, but at no time did she give up her dream to be a light for children in the classrooms. We should lift up those who provide this light for others, even when the sun isn’t shining as bright for them. It’s because of teachers like Tunisia and those who have been mentioned in this piece that will keep that fire burning bright for our future doctors, lawyers, elected leaders, painters, mothers, thought-leaders, firefighters, and of course, teachers.
Sean Tobin, lead data and policy analyst
I am very lucky to have had the teachers and inspiration that I did while growing up. One of my very best examples was my middle school math teacher, Mr. Haughn. Mr. Haughn was a little gruff and had a purposely difficult method of teaching us. It was a great system that worked out because he always patiently made sure that every kid in our class, and even after school understood the material we were working on. He was practically famous for saying “I always give you the toughest equations first, then all the others will be easy once you get the first few.” His main goal was to make sure we wouldn’t shy away from what is tough or difficult. He gave us the patience and determination to always find the answer.
Sam Inglot, deputy communications director
When I was attending Michigan State University, I changed majors quite often. I was struggling to find direction, although I knew I wanted to do something surrounding politics and helping people. I needed someone to help guide me. What I found instead was a group of people.
One day my sophomore year I came across a small protest on campus in front of the administration building. It was an action planned by members of the Graduate Employee Union at MSU and they were angry about budget cuts and tuition hikes just like I was. They invited me and my friend back to their office to talk about the issues with them.
The American Studies office in Morrill Hall (which is no more) became my hangout spot between classes and in the evenings where I would hang with and learn from these graduate students. I would eat lunch there and even take naps on their couch. In many ways they took me under their wings and helped me take my youthful angst and uncertainty and channel it into personal growth and real-world engagement and action.
These graduate employees who were both teachers as well as graduate students. We found ourselves in similar boats as we were all struggling with debt, class work, and scheduling, but I was inspired by their knowledge of history, radical politics, philosophy and religion. I looked to them as role models and eventually as friends. Through them I took classes and internships, we organized together on campus, and they gave me advice on life.
I learned more in that office from those guys than I ever did in a classroom on campus my entire time at MSU. So thank you, Todd Mireles, Jack Taylor, Morgan Shipley, Darren Brown, and Jesse Draper.
Matt Kovac, digital media coordinator
Mrs. Susan Stewart was my writing teacher at Patterson Elementary in Naperville, Illinois, but her mentorship has continued far beyond the classroom in the years since. When I moved to a neighboring Chicago suburb, she continued to edit my creative writing, recommending writing manuals and offering crucial insights gleaned from countless writers’ workshops.
To this day, whether I’m writing a research paper, a blog, or a newspaper column, I find myself drawing on the lessons she imparted at coffee shops and kitchen tables. Her tireless advocacy and commitment to her students has paved the way for my academic and professional success. Moreover, her work in education and writing has served as a personal inspiration and I hope to find a similar balance in my own life.
Shin-Yi Wang, web and graphic design coordinator
I was experiencing a dramatic change in my family when I met Mr. Xu, my high school photography teacher. Mr. Xu showed me how to perceive the world through the “lens” of a camera and introduced a diversity of ideas, approaches, and technologies to take photographs. Instead of telling me what to do, Mr. Xu always asked me what I wanted to do and how can he help. With his teaching method, I built my confidence in doing projects outside the school curriculum and had my first photography exhibition. More importantly, his effort to build a trusting relationship between us allowed me to confront my anger and confused emotions about my father’s death. I am grateful to have met Mr. Xu.