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Influential Teachers

November 28, 2015



Happy Friday from San Francisco!


As I settle in and enjoy the scene in North Beach- the focal point of the Beat Generation- I reflect on my fascination with this littleItalian neighborhood on the edge of San Francisco. My interest grew in high school when Mr. O’Brien, my English teacher, continued to feed my curiosity with “beat” literature.  He gave me Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Bukowski, while also mixing in African American literature and philosophy.  I was a junior at that point, and you could classify me as someone who wasn’t very interested with school.  However, O’Brien (or OB as we called him) identified my curiosity and kept me engaged every time I walked in his classroom.  Besides OB, I’ve had countless teachers who impacted me throughout my adolescence.  (In no particular order, I want to thank Fr. Paul, Mr. Smith, Mrs. Bertonazzi, my mom, dad, and grandfather.  You've taught me life lessons and helped shape me into who I am today.)


I tell this story because most of us have probably had a similar experience.  Somewhere along our schooling we’ve had those teachers who stood out to us and helped us make meaning of who we are and what we want to do with life.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it’s important to show gratitude to those who enter the classroom every day, give it all they have, and aim not only to teach content, but also character. At times, teaching can be a thankless job.  There are days where you question whether or not you are truly making a difference, or if what you’re teaching has any relevancy. Regardless, you step into that classroom each day armed with knowledge, a smile, and the eagerness to help young adults make meaning of the world around them. 


There are teachers that do not have that mindset, and as with most professions, you have those that are good at their job, and those who are just there for a paycheck.  That topic came up last night, at Thanksgiving dinner oddly enough, as I sat wedged between twenty-some year olds from Norway, Germany, and Austria.  They were all studying abroad, and we talked about the difference in education amongst countries. It was a fruitful discussion, and it reaffirmed not only my love for teaching, but also reminded me of how thankful I was to have teachers who were curious, knowledgeable, and caring. 


So I’ll finish with a quote (thanks, EB) and YouTube video that reinforces the role of teachers in society.

"As long as you are in my life, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you.  I am going to challenge you, confront you,push you, and coach you.  You can whine.  You can throw a tantrum.  You can shout and swear and stomp and cry.  And the next day, guess what?  I will be here waiting — smiling and patient— to give you a fresh start.  Because you are worth it." C. Mielke



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