Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Thu, 20 Jun 1996 18:51:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Random Thought: My Favorite Educators

It's Saturday morning, June 15th, on a plane somewhere over Kansas that's takng me to San Francisco where I will meet my wife and we can attend our son's graduation at Stanford.

I've just left Ottawa a few hours ago where I participated in the stimulating, exciting, and rewarding annual three-day conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. It was one of those uniquely collegial conferences at which there were almost no egos, where almost everyone shared, cared, listened, and learned. It's left me on such a high I'm not sure I really need this plane to get to the west coast.

Since the people in the seats next to me have no interest in conversation and I've on a thinking and writing tear since I flew out of Jacksonville three days ago--it must be something in the snacks they hand out on these flights--I find myself remembering a conversation I overheard at the conference during a coffee break in which a few people were discussing who they admired most in the field of education. I heard many a prominent name mentioned. I remember asking myself who were my favorite educators, but I train of thought at the time was interrupted and forgot about it until just not.

So, I've been thinking about who are the educators I most respect. You might be surprised with my answer. They aren't the big-name conference keynote speakers. They aren't those who run the preconference workshops. They don't hold academic chairs in major research centers or have a mile-long research and publication resume. They aren't the likes of the Maslows or Ericksons or Blums or Combs or Gardiners or McKeatchees or Piagets or Rogers or Buscaglias or Senges. I certainly listen to the words of experience from these giants. I read the results of their research. I ponder their philosophies and outlooks. I like most their ideas. I appreciate their work and insight into the learning processes. They are important to be sure. With very, very few exceptions, however, my real favorites are not the headliners or experts.

My favorite eduactors are those kind, sensitive, respectful, caring, loving, humble human beings--the proverbial unsung heroes--the real teachers, in the public schools and community colleges, junior colleges, colleges, and universities who unsahkeably believe in their students, practice inclusion rather than exclusion, nuture rather than weed out, see students with their hearts. Day in and day out, against almost insurrmountable odds, they fight for the right of their students to succeed in the face of assaults by bureaucrats, sneers by peers, restrictions by adminstrators, constraints by bean counters, demeaning by politicians, bashing by experts, finger pointing by parents, and accusation by all sorts of people. Bloodied and torn, they fight the demons of cyncism, resignation, negativism, the confining "system", and mind-dulling routine. They're the Tim Parshalls and Trev Dickinsons who ignite and keep the fires burning with the students. They're the Gail Bjorks, Sandra Bergers, Carol Steinhauses, Angela Cliffords, and Paul Forbeses who see a miracle, a dignity, and nobility in each and every student. They're the likes of an Ann Pemberton and Annie Barnes who teach with a caring passion, no holds barred. They're Marty Meyer, Ann Boyce and Steve Gunter who know that talking is not teaching and listening is not learning. They're Wendy Duncan-Hewitt, David Mount, Bill Hunter, Chen Ai Yen and Tim Dalmau who never walk by students in the hallway without noticing them, who walk into a class and see students for the gems each of them is. They're Don Bass, Bob Pettapiece, Kevin Drumm and Lisa Currie who know that it's attitude, not grades, that determine a good student. They're tough lovers like Malcolm Gauld and Ray Rasmussen. They're courageous, compassionate, creative teachers like Peter Fredericks, Reavley Gair, Tom Powers, and John Lawry . They're a Judi Neal, a Joe Serano, an Irene Honey, a Ted Pantiz, an Ian Hewes, a Marc Zicari, and a Neal Steiger who know that good teaching is not a destination to arrive at, but a way to travel. They're a host of others whom I've met at conferences, talked with on the internet, and whom I have never met and don't know. Damn, I admire them.

Some may ask, "what have they done?" or "who are they." I'd answer sarcastically, "Oh, nothing. They're nobodies." Nobodies? They are the likes of Vicki Harvey and Dale Fitzgibbons and Donna Ellis who just set students on the right paths of life; they are the Chris Poulsons and Tim Petersons who merely act as beacons of inspiration to their students. They are only such banners of humaness as Chuck Williams and Bill Hayes. Like the Steve Ahlnesses and Billy Streans, they simply help students to believe and see their inner strength. They're the Dawn Doles and Joann Stanleys who bring caring into the classroom and the students' hearts. There are the Bob Cunninghams and Russ Hunts who take the time to make someone smile. There are the Diane Plamadons and Pete Breslins who give students their "other chance." They're the Susan Kargins, Jennifer Yees, Mike Lemieuxes and Diane Buchanans who are "all there" when students are in need. They're the Bill Ferrises, Paul Walkers, Carolyn Seefers, Rick Garlikovs and Herb Rotfelds who know that an education is not the sum of a bunch of largely unrelated credit hour courses. These and untold others dedicated to showing students the way and supporting their efforts rather than blaming them and pointing fingers at them may be who give of themselves, generally go unnoticed and unrecognized. They usually remain faceless, nameless, voiceless to most people, but they're among my favorites.

Like a Beverly Firestone and a Scott Morrow, they have a vision. Like a Karlie Cook, a Lyn Huxford they assume that each student is capable, valuable and has potential, and find ways to see that prophecy fulfilled. Like a Milton Cox, a Michelle Stacey-Doyle, Lynn Anderson, and Joyn Carta-Falsa, they believe each student is able to learn and worthy of respect, and find ways to help them succeed. They have worked and continue to work to develop their craft, have struggled to grow, have touched students, have been touched by students, and have changed the world. And some will still say, "Who? I never heard of them." Well, the students have, and that's what counts. Besides, I don't think renown really matters all that much. Over the last few years I've learned that you don't have to be a somebody to truly be a somebody, people don't have to be important to be important in someone's life, and you don't have to be famous make a difference in someone's life.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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