Wednesday, April 4

And The Teacher Of The Year Is...

Mr. Bonin! I have to tell you all because Craig is too modest/humble to tell anyone but his family. He's been a teacher for 10 years and even though I might be bias, he could have EASILY won it each year. His students adore him and not because he's all gooey with them. Craig is fair and treats them all equal, doesn't have favorites (or at least doesn't show it in the classroom!). And the kids see his honest treatment and, for the most part, respect him for that. He isn't all "teacher-y" - he absolutely knows what it's like to be that kid in class that is bored or uninterested in the lesson, that is only thinking about getting outside to throw the ball around. He understands that every kid can't be "good" in every subject; and then finds a way to teach a less exciting subject so that the students are engaged to learn.

He has always taught in the Milwaukee Public School System - some years were better than others. Earlier in his career, he was working with less fortunate students in a not-so-nice part of the city. There were days he would have to take kids home; we also took a couple of them to Marquette or Bucks games. We would "adopt" a kid or two from that school to buy Christmas gifts for. In those years, it wasn't always about teaching the appropriate school subjects but teaching life. Alot of those students dealt with family members who had been shot/killed, living in shelters, single-parent homes, or the only time they ate was what the school provided that day. Those kids needed a stable, grounded adult in their life and Craig was it. They would call him at home if they were having problems, ask to go to the ball game with him, one kid in foster care even asked if Craig would adopt him.

The past 3 years Craig has been at what I consider a "better" school. This year he has 34 (!!) students. 10 or so are special needs or need "alternative" types of teaching. He spends a lot of his free time diversifying his lessons for the next week to accommodate all of the students; to make sure he his doing everything HE can to help each kid understand the material he is teaching. Being a teacher is SO MUCH more than just standing in front of the class, presenting the material to the students. (I realize you might know this but GOOD teachers spend time, their own time to prepare).

He reminisces about former students; how he saw that some of them graduated (which makes him feel OLD but I tell him that if you taught 4/5th grade and they were 8-9-10 years old and you've been teaching for 10 years, then some of them are in college even), or playing high school sports or just asking if I remember so-and-so and telling stories about those certain students. There is no doubt in my mind that these kids have left their mark on Craig. Up until recently, a student from his first or second year teaching would call just to talk and catch up.

Now I remember all of my teachers, even think about how certain ones impacted my life, learning, helped me in any fashion. But I never thought about CALLING one of them or emailing them in the summer. And I have stated loud and clear, to anyone who will listen, that I would not trade places with a teacher - their job can be mostly thankless, with hard work, and sometimes with no incentive. I don't have the patience or stamina to keep up with a class of kids. I have always admired Craig for being/wanting to be a teacher. There are days when I think he wishes he picked a different major in college but teaching is truly a calling for him. He makes it look effortless and makes me wish I had him as a teacher when I struggled through elementary math.

I think this sums it up: "It's so great to hear of people being recognized and acknowledged for what they do and for how well they do it."

(sorry this pic is umm..."off"; I tried to secretly scan it without Craig knowing)

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