Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Circle of Life

I believe we all have a purpose. My purpose in life is to be the best husband in the world for my loving wife, father in the world to my three awesome children, and it has always been my desire to be the teacher all the students of my school want to have. I am accomplishing the husband and father thing very well!  Now it's my turn to be the social studies teacher students go to their counselor trying to get as their teacher. My teaching philosophy is students will learn when interested and excited about the subject and lesson they are studying. I always ask myself "Would I want to be sitting in my classroom tomorrow if I were a 15 year old student taking part in this lesson?" If I wouldn't be, I'll scrap the lesson and plan for something that is going to spark their interest and engage the student to interact with the lesson. Simply put--my classes are fun and kids learn!

My excitement level was off the radar last night when I saw that my Alma mater, United Township High School, in East Moline, IL has an opening for Social Studies next year. I knew with the state budget crisis, new openings are only happening with retirements of current teachers. The closest retirement at Moline is still several few years away. In the back of my mind I knew one of my teachers at U.T. had to be approaching retirement--Herb Ritter.

Mr. Ritter was my sociology teacher at U.T.  He also was a good friend of my uncle who also taught at U.T. from 1966-1979-John Picco. Anyone who knows me and my family, knows I admired my Uncle John as much as anyone else in this world. He was an AWESOME teacher. Beginning his career as an English and German teacher, John was asked to start the psychology class at U.T. He taught the one and only Psychology class and kept teaching German as well. It didn't take but one semester and students were all wanting to take Mr. Picco's Psychology Class. There were more kids turned away than could take the class. The next year he picked up a few more Psychology classes and fewer German classes. Eventually Psychology was all he taught. He was one of U.T.'s most popular teachers. He sparked the students interest and engaged them to a new higher level of thinking. He loved U.T., his students, and the subjects he taught. The reason I majored in Psychology in college was because of my Uncle John.

So why didn't I major in education while at Western in the 80's? It was a dream I very much wanted to fulfill, but I didn't have the confidence I needed in college. Family persuaded me there were more opportunities in other vocations. In my heart, I knew no vocation would provide the passion I had for teaching. It wasn't until I met and married my wife (an Art teacher with the same passion for the subject she teaches as my Uncle John) that I was truly exposed to education at the vocational level. Once in the classroom, I knew this was my destiny--my calling in life.

Now, after finishing a very demanding and challenging teacher certification program, I am finally certified to teach the subjects and grade level I am passionate about. And with an opening at U.T. I can't help but think "THIS IS FINALLY MY DESTINATION!" It is incredibly hard, no impossible, not to get my hopes up. When I was in high school I absolutely loved U.T. I went to every basketball game, football game, wrestling matches, and admired all my teachers. I knew I was going to be one of them someday.

I remembered tonight Mr. Ritter signed my senior yearbook so I went to our memory chest in our bedroom and pulled out my yearbook which I hadn't looked at in years. I knew exactly where Mr. Ritter signed my yearbook. I went to the yearbook and read his entry. "Chuck, It's been a pleasure knowing you and having you in class. You're a very fine student and young man. Turn out just like Uncle John. Best of Luck, Herb Ritter.

I hope in the next few weeks I turn out more like Uncle John than Mr. Ritter ever could have realized. It is an honor I would cherish forever!

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