It all started with Mr. Jacobs...
 
          In 1976, when I was 14 years old, I was asked by Mr. Jacobs, my Civics teacher at Coon Rapids Jr. High, to be the defense attorney in a mock trial that he called “Who Killed Lulu.” It was the first time in my school life that a teacher trusted me with such a large responsibility. I was honored and also a bit intimidated by his request. More importantly however, I was amazed at how creative and dedicated Mr. Jacobs was. The trial was more than simply a play or a speech. It was a simulation that required real sincere preparation. I was impressed that he had taken the time to write the roles that went with the characters in the murder case. He was, to say it simply, a good teacher. He went beyond simply telling us about the nature of the criminal justice system to share it with us in a way that would change our lives. I was not the same after that experience. I won the case, by the way, and four of my clients were acquitted of all charges. Interestingly, I think that one of them actually committed the “mock” crime.

          I was fortunate enough to go to high school at Osseo High School, where I took physics from an absolutely crazy, yet incredibly gifted, teacher named Mr. Jack Netland. He was the most extroverted, energized teacher I have ever had. I will never forget the formula F=MA, because he taught us the formula by laying on a bed of nails as a person smashed a concrete block on his chest. I and the students in his classes could not help but learn from this master teacher. We experienced an environment that was so rich with learning and excitement that we were immersed in the learning. I was not surprised to see that Mr. Netland has been a feature teacher on the PBS Series, Newton’s Apple. He truly was the first Bill Nye, and I was so blessed to be in his class, not only as a student of science, but as a student of life, and as a future teacher.

          I was also blessed to take American Government from Mr. Richard Theisen. He, like Mr. Jacobs inspired his students with critical thinking experiences. Learning required thinking and reasoning through real, controversial issues and concepts. Students, myself included left his class as different individuals than when they arrived. I have not been surprised that Mr. Theisen has been a former president, board member and continues to be very active in the National Council for the Social Studies. What a blessing it has been for me to have learned from such a giant in my profession.

          My first psychology class was also a high school class. Mr. Tom Fitzpatrick was my psychology teacher in school. The topics that he presented absolutely thrilled me. I fell in love with psychology. It was like a melding of social studies and science. I believed that I would somehow eventually become a therapist. I think even then that I wanted the chance to inspire young people, especially those with adolescent problems.

          I became a psychology major at Graceland University, anticipating that I would go to graduate school in adolescent therapy. While in college I learned about learning theory. I discovered that learning is so much more than memorizing information. Learning is influenced by the circumstances in which the learner find themselves. While I was in those undergraduate years, I began to realize how absolutely fortunate I had been to learn in such enriching environments as a child.

          I entered graduate school in 1984. I originally was in the counselor education school at the University of Iowa. I was still fully planning on working with problem adolescents. One day, after class, I had a very interesting and poignant conversation with my adviser, Dr. Hal Adams. He had said something in class about the amount of paper work required by the state, and that real therapists, those that truly inspire are found in the classroom. In our conversation, Dr. Adams asked me to think back to those early experiences. He asked me to think about the people in my life that had the greatest influence on who I was. He made me see that those experiences that had the greatest impact were experiences in the classroom. He told me that if I truly wanted to be a front line therapist, I needed to be in the school room. He said teachers are those that are first to intervene in the lives of children.

          It took me another year and a half but I completed the equivalence of another major at the University of Iowa, this time in American History, and did my student teaching in 1986. One morning as the day began, one of my students came into class late. She was crying, so I stepped outside with her and asked what the problem was. She had just discovered that her good friend had committed suicide the night before. As I went through the action of getting the young lady to the school social worker, I suddenly understood what Dr. Adams had meant. I was the first intervening individual that this young girl had with her in the trenches. I knew that I had found my profession.

          I am not saying that I am a counselor. I am a teacher that understands the significance of a listening ear. I am not saying that I am a psychologist. I am a teacher who understands the significance of an environment that promotes learning and thinking. I am not however, simply a teacher. I am an educator.

          Since those early years, I completed my Master's Degree in Secondary Education at Northern Arizona University, and recently completed my Administrator's Certification at The University of South Alabama.

          Most recently, I have started the long journey of doctoral studies.  I am an Ed. D. student at the University of West Florida working on a doctorate in curriculum and diversity studies.  I am very interested in the moment of deeper understanding and the sociocultural diversity of the classroom experience.  I am also very intrigued with conflict, conflict resolution and positive psychology.


          As for my career, my wife and I moved to Nogales, Arizona in 1986. I taught at Wade Carpenter Middle School for several years and at Nogales High School.  In 1994 my family and I moved to Mobile Alabama.  Since then, I have taught at Mary G. Montgomery High School.


          Wow, what a wild ride it has been.  Those early instructors like Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Netland, and countless others including Dr. Adams created a solid foundation for me as an educator. The environment that they created made me who I am. I have spent almost twenty-five years attempting to capture the spirit that they brought to their class room environments. My goal is to create just such an environment.