|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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.