alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Saturday, August 23, 2008

excellence












This photo is from a local newspaper article from last year showing Don using his amplification system, which saves his voice and throat from having to project all the time. You know how it can be, talking above 26 3rd graders.

I want to congratulate my favorite teacher for winning a 'Commitment to Excellence' award granted to teachers in his school district.

These awards are given annually to honor educators who demonstrate commitment and innovation, and who embody the qualities of excellence. He will receive a significant cash gift to use as he wishes in his classroom. Feel free to offer suggestions for spending the money. (I'm thinking turtle ice cream sundaes for the year, or little disposable cameras.)

Even more valuable than the cash, here are a few excerpts from the letters supporting his nomination:

  • '. . . a child in Mr. M.'s care is guaranteed to leave school each day feeling good about him or herself.'


  • "quoting Barry Lopez: 'If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.' Don feeds children's brains, hearts and souls with his stories."


  • 'Don knows every student at Cornell and not just by name.'

  • 'Mr. M. could make fun and learning out of anything! Long-division was a piece of cake! All I had to remember was "Dumb Monkeys Steal Bananas," which was a tool to remember "Divide Multiply Subtract Bring-down." Just that phrase helped me through fifth to seventh grade, and in years to come. . . . What I loved about Mr. M. was that he really accepted me for who I was, and made me feel special and stand out from the other students. He finds what is special about them and makes them feel proud. He even builds this into the learning environment.'


  • 'until Tony met Mr. M., he was bored at school.'


  • 'It's not fair, Mom, everyone should get to have Mr. M. for at least one year.'


  • 'Two years ago, my son Ryan was in second grade. Daily, I would drop him off at school and the tears would begin to flow. There were days when he would be so upset, that he made himself sick. A then-undiagnosed learning disorder and a general anxiety towards school made his life miserable. As a parent it broke my heart when he would turn to wave at me from the front school doors with tears in his eyes. This may sound strange, but I was at the point that I didn't care if he was learning, I just wanted to do anything to make him feel comfortable at school. In third grade . . . a miracle happened. Ryan was placed into the loving hands of Don M. When he came home from school the very first day, he repeated a funny story that Don told. I was cautiously optimisitc that Ryan was finally on the right track. Gradually, my son wanted to go to school to hear more stories. His morning tears were gone and he began to catch up scholastically with his peers. Don made him feel comfortable. He treated him with kindness and nurtured his lack of self confidence. It was the perfect learning environment for him. At the end of the year he was a changed young man. If you met my son today, you might never know about the issues he faced in his early education.'


  • 'Mr. M. doesn't believe in trouble.'

  • 'Through having his students read a historical novel [A Time for Andrew], Don brought back the old game of marbles to Cornell School. . . . Everyone knows what a marble is. A small glass ball with a distinctive colorful design inside. What everyone doesn't know is how the game of marbles has entwined its way through the halls of Cornell thanks to Mr. M.'s leadership. Beyond his classroom talents, Don has taken his teaching skills onto the playground. Students from all grades now have a tradition of playing marbles at recess time. Without knowing it, they have learned many social and interpersonal skills they couldn't possibly acquire inside the school walls. They have learned how to be gracious winners and hopeful losers. They have learned they do have the ability to talk and be friends with someone they don't know. They have learned that everyone has good days and bad days. His innovative teaching skills have taken a centuries-old game and turned it into something magical at Cornell. Children of all academic and athletic abilities have formed friendships they otherwise wouldn't have because Mr. M. took the time to teach them the game of marbles. Somehow, through this simple game, Mr. M. has opened a door for each child.'


51 comments:

Sharon said...

Congratulations Don!

Those words almost made me cry. What a wonderful gift and kind soul Don has.....you can see it in the little girl's expression as she looks at him. We are all so lucky to know you both, even if it is only a little and only online. Thanks.

Anet said...

He is a fantastic teacher! I wish Noah could be in Don's class for third grade.
I loved to hear this! Congratulations Don, job well done!
I think I'll use "Dumb Monkeys Steal Bananas" when the time comes to teach long division to Noah :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Wow, Wow! Congrads!

Hmmm, what to do with the "gift of $". While turtle sundaes sound delish, and disposable cameras sound great, I looked up the school on line - it sounds like most of the parents can afford to do either of these things for the kids, maybe not.

But, Don teaching kids the game of marbles & the ferver he has created got me thinking. Why not teach another "life lesson". Make the kids entreperneurs. Why not start a MARBLE STORE.

Purchase a wide variety of marbles: basics, favorites, exotics, collectables, and antiques. Buy supplies to assemble kits, including make your own bag to hold your collection in.

Get Jr. Achievment involved to help teach the skills necessary to run a business.

Get a "team of students" to teach the game and take it to other elementary schools.

Just a thought. Sounds like Don might like the challenge, and the students would come away with even more life lessons that will help them succeed for a very long time.

You have a large number of international students? in the area. The game can be used to show that we can still communicate, when we don't know the language well. Hmmmmmmmmm!
Sam

Rauf said...

Most difficult job, needs fresh creativity every day. We all remember our school teachers Ruth,
the memory of them is always fresh. i have seen many pictures of Don in your blog with children looking at ease and comfortable and enjoying his company. i would not call that a skill, it is perhaps his nature. The pleasant memories he creates is the best reward of all.

Loring Wirbel said...

As Sharon said, the look on the girl's face to Don's right says it all. He is in his element, making every single student feel like they matter.

Loring Wirbel said...

And suggestions for spending the money in the classroom? One Flip Video to share is better than 20 disposable cameras. Make all the kids YouTube stars.

Sandy said...

What a fantastic post and I so enjoyed reading about others' thoughts on Don as a teacher. He is one heck of a great guy and even though I haven't met him, I sure would like to....
both of you.


auntie sandy

laura said...

Congratulations to Don--what a bonus for him to have someone who is proud of him at home!
It's quite obvious from his blog, his voice, that Don is an exceptional teacher. I agree with the student who said it's not fair: everyone should have such a fine teacher, at least--at least!--once!

Ingrid said...

How wonderful! It's quite an honor to be recognized for superior teaching. Unless you're a teacher or have one in the family, you can't appreciate the countless hours teachers spend preparing for the elementary classroom. It sounds as if Don makes the most of those "teachable moments" and you can only do that if there's an invisible framework for learning already in place. I envy the fortunate students who are in his class! Congratulations!

Ruth said...

Sharon, thank you.

I think the kids would hug Don all day if he let them. He has a way with kids that is a wonder to behold.

Ruth said...

Anet, I thought Noah might be a 3rd grader this year. If Noah knows/learns marbles, Don would love to have him in the tournament at the end of the school year!

I never learned the Dumb Monkeys Steal Bananas help. I hope it helps Noah!

Ruth said...

Sam, wow, this economics lesson plan is brilliant.

It's funny too, because Don and the kids had tried finding marbles in the local stores when this craze first began, and there were hardly any around. Now the stores are carrying them after so many requests.

It would be cool to have tournaments between schools, or across schools, including the mostly international university school, Red Cedar.

Thank you so much for your visit!

Ruth said...

rauf, Don is of course pleased about the award, but he cares far more about how kids feel. If they are confident and comfortable, they are more receptive to learn. There are so many anxieties kids have at school, and they keep them from opening up to learning. He does have a natural ability to related to children, and he keeps improving that, learning from his on experiences year after year.

Ruth said...

Loring, when we are out in public, like when we went to the county fair last month, we run into current or former students from Don's school. They crowd around. Sometimes I wonder if they will be curious about Mrs. M., to check me out, but their eyes don't veer from Mr. M. He's the Pied Piper.

Ruth said...

Auntie Sandy, I don't want to keep pounding on it, but Don is really quite a legend - in his school, in his community, in our family. He doesn't give it a thought, and he HATES being the center of attention. He had a hard time with this post, makes him very uncomfotable.

We would love to meet you too. Please let us know if you come to Michigan, and we'll let you know if we go to LA!

Ruth said...

Laura, thank you so much, I know Don will read all the comments and it will mean a lot to him.

Even my family members sit around and ask Don his school stories. When we first met, and I took him to our family cottage to meet my family, he stayed outside and played with kids. He's pretty much more comfortable hanging out with kids; I think he appreciates their honesty and uncomplicatedness.

Ruth said...

Oh Ingrid commented, yay! Oh dear, now I'm trying to remember, were you a teacher? I have a memory of that. Forgive me for not remembering.

You are so right about the teachable moments. He says it all the time! (to me, hehe, when I need to learn something about a car engine or some mechanical whatsit) And the other thing I LOVE about his teaching is that he knows the stuff. Like in science, he doesn't have to study the lesson. He understands how things work, and so he has complete freedom to expand the lesson in ways that come up spontaneously.

Peter said...

So awesome/well deserved!

Ruth said...

Yep.

Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

Oh my! What wonderful, awesome and inspirational things to hear about Don! This is just awesome! Way to go Don! Wooooot! I can't even begin to try to recommend what to do with the award but I know he'll find the best way to use it. Give that teacher a big hug for me ok?

Larry said...

Don For President!

We need your loving, healing manner. Actually 3rd grade is more important. Congratulations and keep up your good works.

Stiggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stiggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stiggy said...

Good ol' Don!

A needle in a haystack - I'm glad I found him!

;)

Great stuff guys!

Ruth said...

Amy! Thank you, and I sure will.

I'm sure he will think of something good for the money.

Ruth said...

Larry! Ahh, thanks for coming to visit. Can you imagine a person like Don in the White House? It boggles the imagination. But I think you're right, that he's where he needs to be.

Ruth said...

Stiggy! Me too.

Thank you so much.

Gwen Buchanan said...

The teacher certainly is THE factor that makes the difference... and everyone knows when they are/were lucky enough to have one!!!

Congratulations Don on your Award!!! for showing the children you care.. They will always remember you fondly!!

I wish my son had you for his teacher..

mystic rose said...

Wow! Congratulations to Don! Ruth, you must be so immensely proud. :)

And you make me wish I was in his classroom.

Stiggy said...

Sorry Ruth - I managed to post the same thing 3 times - so i deleted 2of them.

(oooops)

Stiggy

Ruth said...

For Don, I thank you. I will make sure Don comes back to read your comment.

Ruth said...

Mystic, thank you so much. Yes, I am very proud. I was proud long before he got this award, but I'm glad he's been recognized in this public way for who he is. I wish I'd had a teacher like him. I might have done better at school and enjoyed it more.

Ruth said...

Stiggy, no worries. I figured you were just really really glad! :)

lesleyanne said...

i am so proud of my papa. tears in my eyes reading all of the wonderful things people had to say, all of them so very true. he will make such a wonderful principal one day.

loves to both of you.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh, no, Weswey, it will surely ruin him. Principals, like CEOs, are bad news.

Ruth said...

Weswey and Woring, Don would make a fantastic principal. We all know it.

I do think papa Don is where he belongs and where he probably has the greatest influence upon children.

Woring, wemember Miss Fwost?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Accolades for a wonderful teacher. Wasn't your mom a teacher? I'm sure she would be very proud. Let us know how he decides to spend his "gift". I'm sure that half the fun will be dreaming & plotting about the best way to use it!

I wonder what his students would think would be a good use of the "gift"
Sam

Bob Johnson said...

Woo Hoo big congrats Don!! and Woo Hoo for marbles, my fav game in school, I was so good,lol.

Ginnie said...

None of this surprises me one bit, Ruth! I think Nicholas, who is now in 3rd grade, would be in heaven!

SwedeHart said...

That was sure uplifting. Congratulations and job well done. It's not easy making everyone feel good about themselves all at once. It means that you have enough love and energy to share with everyone, which means that you nurture yourself well.

Ruth said...

Hi Sam, so nice of you, we're proud, and Don hates the attention. Yes, my mom was a teacher. She got her teaching degree in music, but through the years of raising kids she substitute taught Latin and English too. But when she first got her degree she taught music. There is no doubt about her being proud of Don, she ADORED him, regardless of what he did. Both my parents did.

I will keep you posted on how he uses the money!

Ruth said...

Oh Bob! You and Don should talk!

You should see all the grandpas and grandmas that have come out of the woodwork to play with their grandkids. It's pretty cool.

But you're not that old . . .

Ruth said...

Boots, yes yes yes, wouldn't Nicholas have a blast, and so would Don with him!

Ruth said...

SwedeHart, you are so right about that. I hadn't thought of it that way until you said it. Not only does he do a good job with each student, he has to make them all feel confident and safe and loved all at the same time. Jeeez.

Don said...

I feel so overwhelmed with all of your nice comments! I think I fit in at 3rd grade because I am a third grader. Birds of a feather and all of that.

I'll let you what my class and I do with the gift. I'm thinking a scanner/printer at the moment...

Grandma said...

Oh, my goodness, gracious me!!! Am I bursting at the seams, or what???!!! And to think -- THIS is the life and times of MY BIL (my sister's husband!)....WOW, WOW!!

Ruthie, thank you soooooo..... much for doing this post. Don -- thank you, SO VERY MUCH, for being YOU! I love you, for WHO and WHAT you are -- with ALL of us. Truly, there is no one that has the magic with kids (all ages!!) like you do. I love you! (SIL) Floosie Susie (yes, sir!)

Ruth said...

Grandma, yes, you have a wonderful BIL! Thank you for your sweet visit.

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam said...

Wow! Congratulations Brother! I can attest to the fact that Don has always been a great person, leader, fun loving guy that makes everyone around him feel sooo special. Watching him grow up, I knew he would be fantastic in whatever endeavor he choose! He was always a little mischievous and always taking things apart to see how they ran! He has been a blessing to our family and makes our family times together the best! You deserve this and I am so happy for you. Love you lots!

Ruth said...

Well said, Pammy. That means a lot to Don!