Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Flint Strikes Steel; Teacher Appreciation

In the spirit of teacher appreciation day, and at the prompting of my friend Dylan Rogers, I am sharing my story of how an unassuming, and caring economics professor provided the spark and inspiration that launched my fulfilling career in education.


Dr. Daniel Kauffman was my professor of Macro-Economics at Winona State University in Minnesota. A college sophomore with an irregular sleep schedule, I typically sat in the front row of the lecture class to stay awake, and engaged in the lesson. At the time, I was undecided on a major, and I was working fiercely to get my academic life on track. 

On this particular day, the topic was cost/benefits analysis for decision making. I did the pre-reading, and I was thoroughly prepared for the discussion. Dr. Kauffman's wife was nine months pregnant, he said the phone call could be coming at any time. As luck, or chance, would have it, Dr. Kauffman did get a phone call early during his lecture. He scanned the room, and asked, "Who would like to take over?"

After a few moments of unresponsive silence, I couldn't take it any more. I half-heartedly raised my hand, and he tossed me a stick of pale yellow chalk. (We're talkin' 1980s here!) Dr. Kauffman departed to a cascade of applause, and I went to the board to proceed with graphing the principle equations. No pressure, right? I remember fielding questions and asking classmates to elaborate on each other's comments. Unbeknownst to me, his phone call turned out to be a false alarm and Dr. Kauffman had taken up secluded residence in the back row of the classroom. 




Approximately forty-five minutes had passed in a blink of an eye, I peppered the class with quick hitting prompts to check for understanding. I wanted to make sure Dr. Kauffman's objectives had been absorbed and understood. I guess I was evaluating myself on effectiveness. Not perfect, but not bad. Not bad at all! I shared reminders about the next assignment and mentioned that I would be in the student union building if anyone wanted to meet to review for an upcoming exam.

Dr. Kauffman approached me after the other students had left. He said that I covered the topic skillfully. He liked how I found ways for students to engage in collaborative communication. He took interest in me by asking how life was treating me, and what I was studying at WSU. After learning that I was an "undecided" major, Dr. Kauffman walked me over to the College of Education office to help me enroll in the teacher education program. I don't think he realizes the impact this experience, and his actions, have had on my life. I remember it like it was yesterday! Thank you Dr. Daniel Kauffman. I appreciate, but don't remember much about cost-benefits analysis. However, I thoroughly appreciate and clearly remember all you have done for me. 

#TeacherAppreciationDay

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