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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Share your “extreme teaching” stories

Share your “extreme teaching” stories

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34 Replies 2339 Views
It’s almost Teacher Appreciation Week (5/3-5/7), and what better way to celebrate than sharing stories about those teachers who blew our minds when WE were students? Now, to clarify here, we’re not just seeking stories about any teacher. No, these are the ones who were the most intense, passionate, and . . . dare I say . . . a little wacky in their teaching methodologies! For instance, maybe you had a humanities teacher who leapt around the classroom in character as Othello while he murders Desdemona. Or perhaps there was a chemistry teacher who made students do an interpretive dance throughout the lab to teach the concept of valence electrons. These are the ones we want to hear about! And, to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we’ll be giving away $10 iTunes gift cards to 20 lucky story-tellers. So let’s hear yours! Deadline is May 7 at midnight PDT.

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Michelle Enser's picture

I had the BEST third grade teacher ever! Linda Ferry was fresh out of college and didn't do things like any other teacher I had ever had. She made individual assignments for students. She took off her shoes and walked around in her stocking-feet. Every day was an adventure and she made us WANT to come to school and she is the reason I am a teacher today!

Patricia Blochowiak's picture

Richard Endres was my math teacher for the 3 years of junior high school. Not only did he teach us the standard 8th grade, algebra, and geometry courses, he also taught us one year of the School Mathematics Study Group ("new math" in the early 1960's), but also a few weeks on symbolic logic, plus the use of the slide rule. We sang "Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken" to illustrate the contrapositive in logic, and learned smatterings of Russian and Japanese, in addition to the previously mentioned German. We were forever having "Quizzy Quizes," which were challenges to figure out something that we would be studying the next day or the next week. Quizzy Quizes never counted against our grade, but only added to it. Class was always interesting.
And if we didn't get enough of Mr. Endres during class, we could join a before-school class in Russian, which I did for two years. To this day, I remember a little, and native speakers of Russian tell me I have a terrific accent!

Nettrice's picture

One fine spring day my art & ceramics teacher Mrs. Suzanne Sidebottom approached me "out of the blue" during my junior year at duPont Manual Magnet High School in Louisville, KY. She invited me to enroll in her experimental computer graphics class the following year, as an elective. Initially I told Mrs. Sidebottom no. My mother was a computer programmer and her work wasn't very artistic. I did not see the link between computers and visual art. However, Sidebottom didn't give up on me. She eventually convinced me to take her new class even though there were no computers in our program.

One the first day of class of the next year we gathered in Mrs. Sidebottom's ceramics studio/classroom for computer graphics. To our dismay the new computers had not arrived. Sidebottom brought her personal computer from home as part of her presentation. She told us to trust her and wait until the computers got there. Here was this great fine arts teacher suddenly taking a leap into unknown territory to teach us computer graphics. I was intrigued.

The following week the computers arrived and we helped the teacher set up a lab. Having been exposed to computers all my life I quickly learned how to use software to make art. During the fall of 1988, under Sidebottom's tutelage I entered and won contests and created a secondary portfolio that earned me a first-place, full tuition scholarship as part of Pratt Institute's National Talent Search. Since then I more readily take risks, choosing never to distinguish my work in one area or space or discipline. As my teacher Mrs. Sidebottom modeled risk-taking for success!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Follett although not "extreme," was different and engaged me and other students year after year.

He wasn't like a normal teacher, you see. He had an obsession with rocks and birds, and when outside you'd constantly see him looking in the air or uncovering a pile of rocks. He even took us on birding and rock expeditions. And his enthusiasm spread -- by the end of the year I could identify common rocks and native bird calls. I remember we even had a rock fashion show (my rock won "best dressed"). His passion for these things really made it fun (I showed my award and my rock off to anyone I could!).

In the classroom, he was just as unorthodox. He didn't believe that there was one standard way to do something and just instilled in us, that we could do anything we want to. So, if we wanted to do 9th grade math in a 5th grade class, we could! We'd of course have to prove to him that we could perform math at the lower levels to do this but it really empowered us and he really believed in us -- you can't imagine how powerful that is to students, especially since we were a title 1 school and many kids I went to school with didn't have stable households (to say the least).

He also instilled in me the little things that were so important, like eye contact. I remember one day, I was feeling sick and he could tell because of the lack of my eye contact. Normally, he trained us all to keep our eyes on him 100% of the time. Since I was sick, my eyes wandered and he came up to me after class to check on me. To this day, he's probably the only teacher that provided that much individualized attention.

Being a bit nerdy and unorthodox definitely created one of the best education experiences I had - Thanks Mr. Follett!

Ellen's picture
Ellen
Geographer/Geographic Educator

Robert DeMunbrun (may he RIP) was the most carrying, energetic, positive, encouraging voice in my academic career. I took his English IV/GT class, but he taught me so much more - about myself, about teaching, about humanity. I am the teacher I am today because of the quiet, energetic voice of Mr. D. I want to be "that" teacher for my students.

... See MoreMr. D spoke to me when I was a lowly freshman (and in a wheelchair part of a semester) at a time in my life when all I wanted to do was blend in. He cared, he remembered things, and he took time from his life to make sure we understood.

After English IV, he took a group of us to England. He gave us the space to push the limits, but reined us in before we could hurt ourselves or others.

Thanks, Mr. D... for all you did for us at JMHS. You were one in a million!

Sarah Puglisi's picture

I would like to offer a little different format. I would copy and paste here from my blog, but I do blog as a teacher, in a new time. And from there I feel you can see a bit more of what my teacher helped me to do.
By way of inspiration...
So I'd like to offer Mrs. Gladys Peyton. If you read through all the entries, all inspired by the teacher that inspired me, you come to a piece called "White Avenue." It was my first attempt to honor my teacher. The thing that you should know about Gladys Peyton was she was the silent person that bore the weight of the changes in a society upon her proud, dignified shoulders. As schools integrated and we moved into different times, different ways of public schooling, she taught. I knew her as a young child in 3rd grade in the 60's, as she was making her way for the first few years of her long career into Second Ward School in Morgantown, West Virginia. She taught most of her time in the "Annex" on White Avenue, and it took me many more years to learn our schools were once segregated. As that street was segregated. And yet, to me, a young white student, she bore no ill-will or resentment. Educating me far beyond anything I probably will ever know. In the pieces that I'm linking are times when I felt compelled to write about this woman.
In the end we exemplify to our students what it is to live good lives. Mrs. Peyton did this with something that is the utter definition of America at her best.
So here's the link...I share my teacher standing in her long shadow.
http://sarahpuglisi.blogspot.com/search?q=gladys+peyton

Joe Connolly's picture

Intense? Passionate? A litle wacky? Let me introduce myself on my attempted teaching practices through the power of one musical...
If you're ANYWHERE near exit 66 of Interstate 84 (CT), and want to see the fifth decade in action, please consider this an open invitation.
Disclaimer note: Joe Connolly isn't positive he has the years exactly correct, but he knows 2010 makes five different decades for this story. Despite his old age, at least in his children's eyes, everything else in this article is accurate.
FIVE DECADES OF GODSPELL
The first decade Joe Connolly directed GODSPELL, in the summer and fall of 1979, for St. Matthew's Church in Tolland, Connecticut, Leanne Dwire would perform O BLESS THE LORD MY SOUL. Joe was heading north to his family's favorite vacation spot, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, to be a DJ for the summer. His friend, Pete Perreria, had different ideas. After both working on BYE BYE BIRDIE for the East Hartford (CT) Summer Youth Festival (EHSYF), Pete invited Joe to be assistant director for GODSPELL in Tolland. Though Joe loved being a DJ, he loved the concept of GODSPELL more and stayed in Connecticut.
The second decade Joe directed GODSPELL, in the summer of 1988, for the Theatre North Company of Berlin-Gorham, New Hampshire, Leanne was in the audience of the old James River Barn during a night of its run. Joe had been in New Hampshire since 1984, working at 3 different radio stations in New Hampshire and Maine as well as co- anchoring the 1988 New Hampshire primaries for the local TV cable outlet. His full time job was fifth grade teacher in Milan (NH). He also had the opportunity to do several shows for the award winning Theatre North program, where he was asked to direct the 1988 musical of his choice. He chose GODSPELL. Joe still kept his old phone book, and tried to contact several former cast mates from GODSPELL '79.
Leanne was one of them.
A teacher in Willimantic (CT), Leanne told Joe that if he was ever in Connecticut, he should stop by to say hi. Well, he WAS coming to see the summer musical for EHSYF and...that led to a visit to Leanne, and another visit, and a long distance relationship, so by opening night of GODSPELL '88, Leanne and Joe became engaged. Joe would be leaving New Hampshire a few weeks after the run of the show to move back to his home state of Connecticut.
The third decade Joe directed GODSPELL, in the summer of 1995, for the Indian Valley YMCA (IVYMCA) of Vernon, Connecticut, Leanne was the musical director. Oh, by then, Leanne had married Joe and they had two children, Erin and Patrick, who were 3 and 1 at the time. Joe had been involved with the early years of the youth theater program for IVYMCA and, on this particular year, offered to start a high school-age program, especially if he could direct GODSPELL '95 with the assistance of Leanne. The high school program has since re-joined forces with the IVYMCA youth theater program, but, for GODSPELL '95, it did let the public see the role of Jesus portrayed by an actress.
(more)
The fourth time Joe directed GODSPELL, in the spring of 2001, for the Youth program of the First Congregational Church of Vernon (FCCV-UCC), the producer was Bob LaRochelle, a colleague of Joe's in the South Windsor, Connecticut school system. This may have never happened, but Joe had been directing the Timothy Edwards Middle School musicals in South Windsor for several years. When Bob became youth minister for FCCV, he was looking for something to bond the youth. While going though the FCCV Family Yearbook, Bob spotted Joe's family picture and the wheels began to turn. GODSPELL started a run of youth musicals for several years at FCCV, including a production written by two youth of the church (Eric Hutchinson's and Mike Sadler's BELIEVER). For Bob and Joe, however, it was already mathematically decided that they should do GODSPELL again in 2010. Erin would be 17 and Patrick 15, and, besides, they might like doing musicals.
The fifth time Joe directed GODSPELL will be on Friday, May 21, and Saturday, May 22, back at FCCV for the program titled FELLOWSHIP 2010. Bob and Joe both still work for South Windsor, but now in 2 different schools. In fact, Bob is now "Pastor Bob" for the First Congregational Church of Union in Union, Connecticut. Leanne, however, is still around and is musical director for this production, while in her "free time" she is getting ready to start her final year of ministry school at ANTS (Andover Newton Theological School of Newton, Massachusetts). Erin and Patrick, students at Rockville (CT) High School, are part of the 2010 cast of youth ranging in age from 7 to 20-somethings. Both are singing solos in GODSPELL 2010. Patrick will perform WE BESEECH THEE as well as lead the audience in an intermission sing along version of BEAUTIFUL CITY.
Oh, and Erin will be singing O BLESS THE LORD MY SOUL.

GODSPELL 2010 will be performed on Friday, May 21st and Saturday, May 22nd at The First Congregational Church of Vernon (FCCV-UCC), 695 Hartford Turnpike (exit 66 off I-84). Showtime is at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets are based on reserved seating and are limited to 200 tickets per night. Youth groups of all kinds are encouraged attend our ROCK THIS WORLD performance on Saturday. The suggested donation is $7.00 per ticket. More information can be obtained and/or tickets can be reserved by calling the church at 860-875-7580 or contacting the Connolly's at:
www.freewebs.com/jconnolly/
It should also be noted a worship service celebrating GODSPELL music and parables within the Christian service will be held on Mother's Day, May 9th at 10:00 a.m. at FCCV-UCC. The guest preacher that day will be Leanne Connolly.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

The one teacher who stands out in my life, who was a strong woman and the most perfect mentor, and the person who understood me, was my HS Principal Sr Benign of Alverno High School in Sierra Madre, California.

I was in the first graduating class, and thus I was in a group of very privileged young girls, and we were destined to be all we wanted to be.
I wrote in the 8th grade entrance exams that I wanted to be an ACTRESS, and I am sure she thought this rather silly, but she began a DRAMA club. She brought me into her office and asked me what plays I wanted to act in. I was in heaven.I eventually was Drama Club President. It was not until I was much older that I realized her focus was on me. And, yet, there was more. I was terrible in math. I never was able to pass algebra. My parents hired tutors. On Saturdays, I went to the convent where she tutored me. She realized "something" was wrong. During those years no one knew that much about the learning disabled brain. But, her gut understood my creative energy and my intense passion for the arts. She also saw my intense struggle to work out the numbers and backwords and upside down figures of what I perceived as those crazy scribbles which never ever made sense.

I had received a scholarship to go to a LA College, but there were questions about my math skills. Her letter assured them that nothing would get away with my energy to be a proud graduate. Eventually, I went to school and graduated in NYC. Her fine letter of recommendation was primary to my success.

More than her support her ability to totally understand me and be able to laugh with me and appreciate my strengths, gave me the ability to always know that being intense and creative was OK because if she could love me, than I did not need any one else to approve of me.

When Sister Begina died I thought of all she gave me as a mother and an educator. She gave me so much compassion and unconditionally love. There was nothing I did that was not praised. Her ability to be totally non-judgmental taught me more about teaching than a teaching course. Her warmth and gentleness often stops me from feeling anger and frustration.

She truly was an angel to us all and provided a safe and creative place for all of us to find our dreams and step out of and onto any glittering box and make them come true.

gidget valdez's picture

MY LITTLE GIRL'S LIFE CHANGED WHEN HER DAD DIED IN A CAR CRASH.SHE DIDN'T LIKE SCHOOL ANYMORE,AT TIMES SHE CRIED AND BEGGED ME NOT TO TAKE HER TO SCHOOL,SHE FELT INTIMIDATED BY HER FIRST GRADE TEACHER;AFTER COUSELING,PRIVATE TUTORS AND LEARNING DISABILITIES TESTS THAT CAME BACK NEGATIVE;AND A BROKEN HEART. MRS WRIGHT CAME ALONG WITH HER DIFFERENT TEACHING METHODS FROM COOKIE DOUGH TO LEARN THE STATES TO A BEACH BALL TO PRACTICE SPELLING WORDS AND MUCH MORE.ASHLEY NOW IN 4TH GRADE WOULD COME HOME AND TELL ME HOW AWESOME HER TEACHER IS, HOW MUCH SHE LIKES HER AND MAKE EVERYTHING FUN AND EASY TO LEARN.ASHLEY IN CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR GIFTS,PRESENTS,POEMS ETC.TO GIVE TO HER TEACHER TO SHOW HOW MUCH SHE APPRECIATES HER.(I'M ON THIS SITE BECAUSE OF HER).
THANK YOU MRS. WRIGHT FOR CHANGING MY GIRLS LIFE AND MAKING A DIFERENCE. I NOMINATE YOU TEACHER OF THE YEAR. GIDGET VALDEZ.

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