Thank teachers during American Edu. Week

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tom Dooher, Guest Column

This is American Education Week, a chance for everyone to pause and say thank you to a cornerstone of our nation’s democracy: public school educators.

Tom Doher

Here in Minnesota our students get some of the best education in the world. We lead the nation in ACT scores and graduation rates; we are among America’s brainpower states. Students, parents, and all supporters of public schools deserve credit for that achievement. This is the week to give educators their share of that credit.

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At some point or another all students meet an educator whose lessons go far beyond the classroom; a person who connects with them and unlocks the spirit and energy that every child possesses.

For me, that person was Mr. Schirmacher.

He was my seventh grade general music teacher, but he taught a lot more than music. He was the instructor who taught the value of work ethic when he arrived early to practice or stayed late for singing events. He was the teacher I could confide in — the school role model who listened to me, encouraged and praised me. He was the teacher who gave me the courage and the confidence to trust my own abilities. And he did it by convincing me that singing in the eighth- and ninth-grade choir could be cool.

There were a lot of talented singers in my choir classes. So when tryouts came around for the 16 member madrigal team I had no intention of trying, because I figured I had no chance of making it. But Mr. Schirmacher encouraged me. He pushed me. And so I tried out.

I was nervous but it went pretty well. Tryouts were in the morning, results came out in the afternoon, and I made the group. That was an awakening moment for me. I realized I could accomplish good things with hard work and determination. That was the moment that gave me confidence in myself and it’s a moment that will stay with me forever.

I owe it all to Mr. Schirmacher, but I didn’t fully realize that until I was out of high school, out of college and starting my first job as a teacher. That’s when I recognized my own responsibility to help students the way Mr. Schirmacher helped me.

These days I call Dick Schirmacher by his first name. We were even colleagues for a while; my first teaching job was back in the Robbinsdale School District where I grew up. He’s retired now, but we still talk regularly, and every once in a while we discuss the enormous importance of the education profession. He helped me realize that although an educator may be just one person in the world, to a child that one educator may be the world.

Thank you, Mr. Schirmacher, for all you did for me. And thanks to all the educators and support professionals who do so much every day for so many.

Tom Dooher is the president of Education Minnesota.