It seems appropriate for this post today. National Teacher Day. The power of influence a teacher has is hard to really fathom. Today I'd like to dedicate this post to the most inspirational teachers I have had.
I don't do this to embarrass them in any way. It's more so that they have the opportunity to see the ripple effect that they started so many years ago, when I sat in their classrooms. You see, we talk about the "ripple effect" that a teacher has, and how inspiring one student can be a spark that may change the world. But many times teachers don't actually get to see it.
Mr. Bart Kulhman, Mr. Chris Varvel, and Mrs. Sally Gates Donahue (may she rest in peace...) this post is for you.
It should come as no surprise to many of my classmates that I became a social studies teacher, when all three of the above mentioned educators were my social studies teachers in high school.
I first encountered Mrs. Donahue as a wide-eyed (and VERY nervous) Freshman. I had heard the rumors of her class and the copious notes you would take. In fact, I'm sure she mentioned that on the first day, using that word, "copious." It quickly became a part of my vocabulary as I honed in on my method for note-taking. Don't get the wrong idea here...she didn't just lecture. Her class was the first time I can remember actively learning about history. She taught World History. Some of my favorite memories of her class involve studying Islam and having to cover myself with a sheet while sitting on the floor in the back of the room and her love for Alexander the Great.
Mr. Varvel opened a whole new world to me my Junior year with his National/International, current events class. I can remember sitting in his class, watching the news, debating controversial topics with my classmates, playing the weekly current event quiz game, and producing our Year in Review project. I sat in the front row as we watched the controversy unfold over the "hanging chad" of the 2000 election, I knew all of the countries that belonged to OPEC and their leaders, and first learned to develop opinions different from my parents and peers. While I was away at college, I watched the events of September 11th unfold and so desperately wanted to be in his class, that I called him from my dorm room that night, just to talk about it. What I wouldn't give to be teaching in the same building as him.
I was lucky enough to have Mr. Kuhlman for Junior American History and Senior Government. His energy and love for the subject was contagious. The first day of school our Junior year found us digging in boxes of dirt to discover the various eras of American History we would be talking about throughout the year (which was inspiration for my archaeology project we did this year). One day he ran full-speed into the cinder-block wall just to hook us into his discussion on World War One. Did I say he was high energy? Our Senior year, we created a working government throughout the different classes. Each class period helped run a presidential campaign, whichever class had the winning candidate became the executive branch (President, VP, and Cabinet), one class the Senate, and one the House of Representatives. We had to pass laws, override vetos, and balance a budget. There was some seriously powerful learning happening in that classroom. So much so, that I can honestly say when I creep on my fellow classmate's Facebook pages, I am proud to say we have many who are actively involved in civics and politics today.
These three teachers, unknowingly at that time, instilled a love for history, government, and current events. I knew that I would be a teacher, but I started out wanting elementary education. After about a week observing in a 4th grade classroom (just a couple years into NCLB) I realized that my love for the social sciences would never get to be put into action in the elementary grades. I decided to change to secondary education, social science and never looked back.
Together, these power-house educators helped inspire me to be the teacher I am today. As I finish my 11th year as a middle school social studies teacher, I am just now starting to see the ripple effect continue from my classroom. I have had three student teachers in the last three years and one who was sitting in my very first 8th grade classroom. Who knows how many ripples will come from these new teachers.
All starting from Mrs. Donahue, Mr. Varvel, and Mr. Kuhlman at Burlington High School. The ripple effect and influence that you three have had on your students continues today and will continue for year and years to come.