Sunday, February 26, 2012

Armstrong, Aramaic, Art and Cookies: Teaching Matters

Dave Eastman, right, visits.
EVEN THOUGH I've been retired from teaching for four years, I still hear from former students fairly often, and it's fun to keep up.  Not long ago, for example, I hung out with Ricky Armstrong, when he was visiting his mother in town. He's a graduate of Purdue and has a degree in chemical engineering and as personable now as when I first met him at age 12.  His sisters, Kia and Ashley, are also doing well; Kia has a job with the Center for Disease Control.  So I told him to tell her to look up my daughter, who works for CDC, as well.

Smart kids, those Armstrong's.

In any case, it's fun to see how students turn out and think you might have had some small part in helping them turn out well.  That's why teaching is so rewarding in the end. Friday, for example, I stopped by Tina Butler's place of work to pick up a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.  Tina was "Tina Alford" when I had her in junior high; and she has done well for herself, working in accounting for Macy's, raising a good family as a single mother, and now helping a granddaughter (wait! how old am I????) sell cookies to fat guys like me.

Then, last night, Dave Eastman, another former student stopped by my house.  He was in town and looked me up in the phone book.  So my wife and I had him over for dinner.  Dave is just starting a teaching job at Ohio Wesleyan, after a stint at Yale, where he earned a PhD.  (You kind of figure Dave was a good student even back when I had him in eighth grade.  Now he's an expert in early Christian history, and knows Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

Yeah.  Who doesn't.  Just your average dinner guest, you see.

Art by David Butler
THE OTHER DAY, I noticed a Facebook post from David Butler, a young man I still remember as a phenomenal artist in middle school.  I used to require students to do four projects every year; and Mr. Butler always chose art as his medium of expression.  Sometimes, classmates who saw his finished work thought they were looking at pictures straight out of some history book.  But David had great talent (and since all I can draw are stick figures, I can't claim credit for helping him along.)

He does credit Mrs. Bethany Federman, however, his art teacher at Loveland Middle School, for her influence. Dave was also heavily influenced by Ms. Megan Burns and Ms. Jennifer Grant.

Some of the loudest and most obnoxious voices in education reform today insist that the only way to "save" American education is if we listen to them and, for example, institute more standardized tests.

If you're a real teacher, however, you know your critical job is to do what you can to insure that students are well equipped to follow their dreams.

More of Dave's work can be seen at WWW.SKETCHBUTLER.COM


  1. John,
    I love to have chats with past students as well. Didn't know if you were keeping up with what is happening in Lakota where I teach now. On Thursday they announced they will be letting about 40 PE, Art, and music teachers go from the elementary schoolns. Students will now have a whopping 30 minutes of PE every 3 weeks same for art and music. However they will add 30 minutes of core classes a day. Oh boy more test prep if you know what I mean. Also, my classes have already been cut for next year in order to bring in STEM (aka math and science to keep up with those overseas) over the next 3 years all Family and Consumer Sciences classes are going to be cut at Lakota. All will be replaced by STEM. Very sad to think of how our generation will turn out now when they can't even prepare a meal, balance a check book, have relationships, or probably run down the street. Very sad to think of where we will be...

  2. And to think that art is considered a core subject in NCLB! Art teaches kids so much, including problem solving, visual literacy, critical thinking, and creativity. Studies have shown that kids who have access to the arts in their schools are more engaged and want to stay in school. Taking it out of the public school curriculum will only cause more problems for our schools, sadly.

  3. Damn, Kate, I do believe it's time teachers start to fight back. I think there's actually going to be an "Occupy the Department of Education" soon. Seriously, I'm going, if there is.