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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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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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Grace Rubenstein's picture
Grace Rubenstein
Former senior producer at Edutopia
Blogger 2014

My high school physics teacher, Dave Lapp (still teaching physics there!), is that rare and charming combination of a lot passionate and a little crazy. His enthusiasm for physics infected us students, even as the malaise of senioritis sapped our interest in other classes. And oh, did he like to wow us by pushing - or breaking - the conventional boundaries of school.

When we studied force and motion, he laid on a bed of nails on the classroom floor, rested a cinder block on his chest and had a burly student smash it with a sledgehammer. During our unit on electricity, he brought in a Van de Graaff generator and fired it up. With a scheming look in his eye, he glanced around the room muttering, "Let's see... I need someone with long, straight, fine hair..." I remember thinking, "Don't make eye contact, Grace, don't make eye contact." A futile effort. Mr. Lapp exclaimed, gleefully, "Grace R!!!" I put my hands on the silver globe, and my hair stood up like a mad scientist's. Then Mr. Lapp had my friend Pete stand opposite me, insulated by standing on a textbook, and lean toward me until a blue spark jumped between our noses. Which was (whew!) not really painful.

We built our own rockets and musical instruments to get practical experience with the laws of physics. For our mechanics unit, Pete and I built a Nilla wafer milk-dunking machine. Each year the physics classes voted on a slogan to go on a physics-ophile button (everybody got one). "Physics is phat" and "Physics makes me phrisky" were a couple of top contenders. As penance for leaving Mr. Lapp's classroom to go to the bathroom, students had to carry a detached toilet seat as a hall pass. We worked hard, really hard, and we learned a lot.

The zinger: When we studied ballistics, Mr. Lapp (safely) fired a gun into a block of wood in the classroom so we could measure its impact. He did this for many years, until a couple of years ago administrators made him stop.

And if that's not extreme teaching, I don't know what is.

Between the delightful mad antics were the quiet moments when Mr. Lapp would sit on the edge of his lab table and wax philosophical about the purpose and joy of living. Now, 13 years later, I still think physics is cool. And I still couldn't agree more with Mr. Lapp that life is best lived with purpose, joy, and a dash of exuberant madness.

Leigh Luke's picture

In high School, I had a history teacher, named Mr. Davis, He was very passionate about history. He required up to interview people about the Great Depression and World War II. Well, as we began our study on WWII, he would divide the class into the two side fighting. We played war! It was fun. He would jump in desk, shoot us with his pointer, and he would yell out famous saying from the war. It was awesome.

I have never like history, but that I learned alot about history and I remember most of what I learn.

Mr. Davis was just one of the teachers I had in school that inspired me to become a teacher. I just hope that I am half the teacher that he was.

Sherrie Kephart's picture
Sherrie Kephart
8-12 Computer/Art/Journalism teacher from the deep east Texas Piney Woods

In high school, I had a passionate government teacher named LeeAnn Minton. She taught at Sienna Heights College as adjunct in addition to her duties at Tecumseh High. She tried to make us understand that doing just enough was not acceptible. She was passionate about that view. She paced around the class talking, asking what if questions to each of us and chewing on her glasses. She always had a current event joke of the day, and had us taking notes from her lectures over materials not in our government books. We used to whine, but she told us to get used to it because if we were going to college, we had better have these skills. She wouldn't accept anything less than our best and total concentration. She also made us keep a weekly current event notebook. (She actually read all our notebooks and made notes and comments to us in them so we had the concepts correct.)
I also had her as my Newspaper/yearbook advisor. She was truly big on first amendment rights and priviledges. I was staff photographer. She made sure I understood that there was NO excuse for slacking about covering activities. AND, there was NO excuse about not keeping up with the work in her class. She made government interesting and MADE us all realize that citizenship was a duty we all had just because we were born here. I went into the newspaper business because of what she instilled in me. I am now a teacher so I can carry on the tradition of what she started in my life. I understand she is now a councilperson in Hudson where she lives.... and she is still active at 80 something. She will always be my hero.

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

Just to clarify here a bit. After the posting deadline: Friday, May 7, 2010 at midnight PDT, we'll be randomly drawing 20 names from anyone who posted to this discussion to win the $10 iTunes gift cards. You will be notified the following week via email of your prize.

Good luck everyone!


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.[/quote]

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