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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Price of Excellence


Today is Teacher Appreciation Day and marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week.  I'm posting a short essay written by a young adult eleven years ago.   This piece, written by my son when he was a senior in high school, takes a very difference approach to what he observed as the price of teaching excellence.  I liked it so well that I still have the paper.  Chris has given me permission to post it today.

Chris Helscher is an Account Manager at Root Learning, a boutique management consulting firm specializing in strategy execution through people.  He is an avid hockey fan - playing and watching as much as possible.  In addition to his love for hockey, Chris has a passion for food.  Dining, eating and cooking are a significant part of his life.  Chris currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan - as a first time home owner - with his beautiful girlfriend, Rachel, cat, Aurora, and dog, Senor

Here's the piece, written on September 8, 2001.

It’s twelve o’clock again. The hunger always comes right about now. It never fails. Still, I sit here every day sifting through general chemistry quizzes, laughing at typical mistakes made by some young sophomore. If I could only consciously remember that I made the exact same mistake on the exact same quiz on whatever day I took it.

I look over at Felczan on the phone. He’s oblivious to my glance and completely enthralled by his wife telling him of the latest feats his son and daughter have accomplished at home. It’s the same conversation everyday, yet it’s approached with the same enthusiasm and joy each time, all the while never growing old. Soon Felczan will remark to his wife that he needs next Thursday off so he can “work out” with the academic team, knowing that her inevitable answer will be yes, although it’s a regrettable one. Even though all of Felczan’s coaching endeavors, whether it be the Academic Team, Jet, or Science Olympiad attract the same attention as his gives to his children, his toddlers do come first, if only by a smudge. It’s a close race, the winner known only by a carefully observant few, of which I am one. I take the time to notice and quietly appreciate.

I’ll never come to an understanding of how one man can care for people that he must teach as closely as he cares for his children that he chose to care for and watch over. This could be a factor of age, but I elect to think of it as a quality that one must strive for. Either way, it's a characteristic that few teachers I’ve encountered possess. 

In a dying art, this sort of commitment is reassuring. To see a man that is willing to put forth as many nights and weekends as it takes to ensure that each and every student in his AP Chemistry class understand the material well enough to pass that test is inspiring. Because of that, I’ve found myself on more than one occasion doing the work not for myself, but instead for Mr. Felczan.

I do this knowing that if I don’t understand my own class work, Mr. Felczan will sacrifice the time he had set aside for me to grade a few papers as his lab aid and sit down and teach me by myself. And he would care enough to make me understand the homework, too.
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