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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Monday May 7 through Friday May 11, 2012 is National Teacher Appreciation Week; a time to pay tribute to teachers and, as shared by NEA, a time to "honor local educators and acknowledge the crucial role teachers play in making sure every student receives a quality education."

We know and recognize that there are many teachers in our past who have given their hearts, minds and souls to nurture in us the things that they saw as vital to our education, critical to our success, and important for our future.

In keeping with that theme, I want to take this time to celebrate and share with you The Magnificent 7 -- teachers from my past who inspired me, and gave freely of their time to this great profession we call teaching. These are seven teachers who were super, teachers who have earned the right to be called GREAT in this profession that many of us call our life's work.

T is for Trusting

Mrs. Young was my first grade teacher. She was patient, kind and I trusted her. She was the first teacher who ever recognized that I had something special to share with the world, even if then it was only my dimples. Mrs. Young guided me through my first budding romance and always made our classroom feel like a safe place. I will always treasure her kind words, her caring smile, and her encouragement as I learned not to talk so much and struggled with my ABC scrapbook.

E is for Enthusiastic

Mr. Todd was my sixth grade "open classroom" teacher. He was amazingly talented, as he could not only look you in the eye and get you to behave, but he could also get you to sing your heart out! Mr. Todd was our class choir teacher, believe it or not. I was one of the first to experience an open classroom setting, back in the day when funds for schooling were limitless. He was enthusiastic about all our learning, but particularly when it came time for music lessons. I will always cherish the way he literally "pounded" the keyboard and got our class to sing with a joyful noise!

A is for Amazing

Mr. Kirshenbaum was also my sixth grade "open classroom" teacher. He partnered with Mr. Todd in this great opportunity and did most of the critical "academic" teaching. He was amazing to me in that, no matter the issue or dilemma, from broken arm to broken heart, Mr. K always kept his cool. His kind, caring demeanor and leadership were unparalleled in all my school experience. He was a true mentor and beloved by all. Later he would become my "boss" as my superintendent in two local school districts where I served as an administrator. He recently retired as the superintendent of a tremendously successful district. Knowing Mr. K as I do, I know this is only the beginning of his next adventure!

C is for Charisma

You know those people who appear in your life and -- no matter what they say or do -- everyone loves them? That was Mr. Joseph Gascon, my uncle. Uncle Joe began his career as a potential big league baseball player who gave that up to move to his true calling which was teaching. He was brilliant and beloved by many for his firm, fair and consistent manner. He had amazing charisma and could keep you engaged for hours as he shared his teaching adventures or the latest stats of his fave baseball team. His genuine caring for his students, teachers, parents and school community won the hearts of many. He advanced quickly and served as a school principal until his passing in the late 1990's. His last school now bears his name: Joseph A. Gascon Elementary. I will always remember him fondly, not only as his niece, but for the time he took to support me as a new teacher, and for his mentorship as I became a school administrator.

H is for Hopeful

Mr. Goebal was my high school U.S.B. (United Student Body) teacher. Yes . . . I was one of those! I loved all the leadership opportunities and spent two years serving as junior and senior class secretary. Mr. Goebal was the teacher who had the distinct privilege of teaching social studies and guiding all the high school class officers in our daily work. Yes, our school actually had a class where all the officers met regularly to have our meetings; meetings where we discussed such earthshaking topics such as where to hold our next prom and which band should play at the next dance. We did have some big thinkers, though, who got into some nasty debates on other topics that were not looked upon too kindly by our principal; topics such as walk-outs or sit-ins to protest the Vietnam War. When those contentious discussions broke out in class, Mr. Goebal kept his cool, calmed us down and was a constant source of hope. Even when we knew that the walk-out would never fly, he never wavered in his encouragement to us to bring the issue forward no matter what the outcome might be. I will always remember him for his patience with us, and for his kind acceptance of all our diverse student opinions.

E is for Extraordinary

Ms. Paulee was my college voice coach and teacher. She was an amazing, gifted artist who performed with the Metropolitan Opera. In her retirement from the MET, she joined the faculty at CSULA. She was fiercely dedicated to her voice students and was a tremendous taskmaster. In my bi-weekly sessions with her, she could get me to use my voice and stretch my vocal abilities in ways I never dreamed possible. She coached and mentored with a vigor not often seen in teachers in their mid 60's. She passed away in 1995, but left a legacy of extraordinary brilliance. I will always be in awe of her teaching and passionate spirit, and grateful for her firm belief in my artistic abilities.

R is for Resonate

For many of you who read my blog, you know that my inspiration for all that I do comes from my grandmother, Mrs. Carmen Gascon. She attended UCLA at a time when most women of her day were denied the opportunity. She was fascinated with the study of languages and spoke English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and became a high school foreign language instructor and adjunct community college professor. Her manner of teaching languages and her message of hope always resonated with her students. As an early immigrant, she was 100% convinced that, through the power of education, people could rise above poverty and achieve their dreams. I will be forever grateful to her for her steadfast commitment to living a life filled with seeking her passion and teaching me to do the same.

I'd love to hear from you! Now that I've shared and my Magnificent 7, do have at least one? Share with us as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, a teacher who has made a difference in your life as an educator.

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