Today was my last day of 17 years of class.
Of all the influences on my life over the last 17 years, I think my teachers have been some of the best and most under-appreciated. Its hard for me to imagine as dedicated of humans anywhere as the teachers I had in high school, and I know I would not be the same person without their commitment, patience, intelligence and inspiration. The first few years of college with 400-person lectures was a tough transition as a result, but even in college, there have been some truly outstanding role models that deserve my accolades and appreciation.
They may never see this, but they deserve a thank you.
Here is a list of all my favorite teachers.
To you I have to say: Thanks a million!
(Also, since I’ve been a really lucky person, this is going to take a while)
Miss LaBelle, 3rd and 4th grade- (I wonder what your name is now) I bet you weren’t more than two years older than I am now when I had you in 3rd and 4th grade. The fact that I have so many, and such fond memories from your class says something about your ability to get kids excited about learning. I still remember how proud I was when I learned how to spell ‘hypothermia’ and ‘very’ (not, “vary”). I also remember the day I attempted to show the class that I could make a parallelogram with only 2 sides. Anyway, what’s most vivid is the brightness of your smile and how eagerly my friends and I sought that smile and your approval.
Mr. Stuckey, 5th grade- I think you taught me how to read. I have the most scattered memories from your class (somethings about Oconomowok, the million dollar song, a picnic at Oak Park…?), but I remember you had ultra enthusiasm and ultra patience and I remember that you got really excited about finding cool new ways for us to learn. That was awesome.
Mr. Kendrick, 7-8th grade English- I really, really hated you at first. Diagramming sentences – that sucked. But you taught me my most valuable skill and truly instilled a passion for writing that I still carry today. I will never forget your flawless 5 paragraph essay approach, or the way you pushed and pushed us until we got it. I remember wondering why a person as smart as you would spend all your time with 7th graders, but now I know why… because you’re really good at it!
Mrs. Blankenship, 7-8th grade Geography- I remember that you did a good job explaining serious world issues, even for junior highers. I remember you trying to explain the meaning of what had just happened on 9/11. On top of these important lessons, you were fun (remember when I wore your sparkly boots?) and I still remember a lot of foundational information about the world from your class. And, not that many people know where Djibouti is, so that’s cool too.
Mr. Redmond, 9th grade Debate- you are engaging, fun, confidence-instilling and it’s no surprise that everyone wants to be in your class. Thank you for your criticism and confidence.
Mrs. Divinski, 10th grade Biology- I hope someday I know about something to the extent that you know about biology. Your knowledge and passion for biology was inspirational, and the fact that you made me, the most un-scientific person, interested in majoring in biology says a lot. Aside from those damn drosophila flies, your class was really awesome. Thanks for making learning so fun.
Mrs. Keekley, 10-12th grade journalism/newspaper- Mama Keeks, the words I’m about to write will not express how much I owe to you. I already know it. You were easily the most influential teach I’ve ever had. Your passion, enthusiasm, expectations of us, and support for us… even when we were being annoying 16 year olds, was memorable and touching to say the least. Thank you so much for dedicating your time and last nerve to us and the paper… we’re all better people and writers because of it.
Mr. Ahlquist, 11th grade Algebra- the fact that I didn’t dread going to math class all day long when you were my teacher says a lot. You’re fun, engaging, and make math fun (well, as fun as it could be). Thanks for your patience, encouragement, and for not taking things too seriously, it was refreshing.
Mrs. Budolfson, 12th grade Biology- I really admired you. You’re pretty, smart, happy, and made it “cool” to learn biology.
Jeremy Rhiele, HS Guidance Counselor- I’m so happy I got the opportunity to know you. You have amazing insights that I will not soon forget. Thank you for being someone who is not afraid to bring up difficult or emotional topics – it’s refreshing and insightful. I think I’ve carried many lessons I learned from you into college and will continue to do so.
Jeff Judge, 2nd semester Spanish- You were the relief to my worst semester of college. It was so hard to be home while all my friends were away at school, and there was that car accident and my grandma’s funeral… but there you were everyday and you were so bright and really brought our class of really diverse people together as friends. You have such a talent for teaching and your laid back, fun, and down to earth personality is memorable and effective. Muchas gracias por compartiendo tu talento conmigo.
Jack Kloppenberg, Environmental Studies, and Food, Culture and Society- Jack, You are easily my most memorable professor of college. 112 literally changed my life and completely redirected my academic focus. Your passion is contagious and your message is clear. Thank you so much for teaching in such an unadulterated way. You have so much to give and I feel so lucky to have learned from you!
Liz Mills, Environmental Studies TA- Liz, you took what Jack shared and applied it to all our lives. You took the time to make comments, challenge, and pose topics in a way that I’d never thought of them before. Thank you for being the first in college to write me a recommendation when I was so unsure of myself, and also for recognizing the revelations I had that semester. You and Jack really had a big impact on me.
Amos, Susan, and Andrea, SIW- You guys showed me that when you want something you gotta go get it. I learned a lot about journalism, politics, and life last spring. Thanks for challenging me and for your your sacrifices and your friendship. What an awesome opportunity that was!
Cal DeWitt, Ecology- Cal, what a joy it was to be in your class. Your “we are they” concept is so important and your message is so simple, it’s contagious. Thank you for your positive, welcoming and warm attitude. You have no idea how much a college student appreciates fresh banana bread at their professor’s house… that was so awesome. I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to learn from you and thank you for making us laugh when we were stressed beyond belief. You’re really good at that, among many, many other things!
Jack Williams, Paleoclimatology- Coming from someone who is horrible at science and was expecting to snooze through your class… I was blown away! You made complex scientific concepts interesting, relevant, easy to understand and even captivating. Thank you for finally providing me with a good understanding of the issue I thought knew so much about.
Bill Cronon, Environmental History- Your class was outstanding. American Environmental History was so interesting and enlightening. Thank you for the captive final lecture, it really redirected my perspectives on how the past affects the future, and where to go from here. I was SO lucky to get to take your class, it’s really a life-changer.
Samuel Pratch, Ecology TA- Samuel thank you for challenging us and asking difficult questions… and waiting as long as it took to get an answer. Redefining “nature” was important for all of us, and your perspectives were profound and memorable. Thank you for being so positive and forcing us all to challenge our own ideals.
Sue Zaeske, Rhetoric- I think your class was the hardest one I took in college, and I have never been so proud of a grade! My writing improved dramatically over the course of one semester. Thank you for having such high expectations and for being a good enough of a teacher to show me how to a meet them. It was so wonderful to be in your class and I really look up to you.
Harvey Jacobs, Free Market Environmentalism- This class was so compelling. You were so helpful in making us really, REALLY know our projects and come to understand the topic… not only for our presentation, but to be applied to the real world. Thank you for posing the questions you did, and for forcing us to face our fears of public speaking. I learned a lot from you, and thank you! It was a wonderful way to end college.