an ode to the high school teacher

I went to a high school located smack dab in the middle of the northside of chicago. Its student population was extra large in comparison to many other city high schools. and was also known as “the school of champions” for generations. it failed students in so many regards. Teachers were overworked, underpaid, given ridiculous restrictions, and were expected to raise test scores. Attendance was a bigger issue than actual education to most, but not all.

I actually loved my time in high school. I made terrible decisions and often didn’t listen to the advice of my teachers. My grades were mediocre, something that I am not so proud of now. Friends were a huge priority and having fun was the biggest priority. This isn’t to say my high school career was always fun, almost half of it was spent in the hospital with my dad. There were classes I loved (mainly history & art, also that one year of chemistry) and classes that I hated. But if I liked the teacher, the subject matter didn’t mean so much. 

As I’m writing a final paper for my last class of my undergrad career, I can’t help but reflect on the high school teachers that shaped my worldview. They all encouraged me (& others) to speak up when I felt something was unjust and told me the truth, albeit hard to take. These teachers were the beginning formations of my social justice focused life. Little did I know that these small moments would forever live with me, well into my years as a Women and Gender Studies major. 

So, in true fashion of missverasays, here are some shout-outs to the teachers that helped me in more ways than they may know, even almost ten years later.

Mr. Harris: Freshman year, we were forced to take communications classes, to develop our reading and writing communication skills. Mr. Harris, facilitated critical thinking conversations among 35 fifteen year olds and did it well. At the beginning of the year, he took photos of everyone in the class, posted them on the wall with speech bubbles with clips of comments each student had made in class. Mine said something along the lines of, “I don’t believe in war. Violence can’t be the answer.” Mr. Harris encouraged students to express their opinions on different topics, but we had to do it well, and while we could disagree, we had to do it respectfully. Shout out to you Mr. Harris!

Karen Lewis always told me the truth in every aspect of my life. Aside from having her as a teacher, Ms. Lewis would let me sit in her classroom during lunch and listen to all of my complaints about adolescent life and then tell what’s really up. I hated her honesty at certain points, and she could break it down for you like nobody else. Her honesty though, has stuck with me for years and is a trait that I have taken with me and utilized in my own social justice work. Ms. Lewis also taught me that when things are unequal, unfair, and unjust, communities and folks have got to come together and speak up. Without this, who is going to know what’s going in? Shout out to you Karen Lewis!

Shout out to every Art teacher that I had in high school, especially one, Amy Moore. Arts are seen as the programs that can easily be cut because they don’t give students utilitarian skills. Also, it adds nothing to test scores. Ms. Moore took this mentality and turned it on its head. She took our program and made it legible to every other school in the city, mostly by winning crazy amounts of awards at competitions. Ms. Moore stayed late and kept the studio open to have students keep working on their art projects. Shout out to Ms. Moore and her commitment to students!

Shout out to Mr. Drajpuch & Ms. Bradish: Thank you for not sugar coating history. It’s a hard topic to teach, with all of it’s downfalls. You two were honest and real. Both of you taught me that there is always more to the story, and goes beyond what you read. Shout out to you two!

Basically, shout out to any high school teacher that sticks to it. I’m sure you made a difference to a student at some point. Kudos to you all. 


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