Special instructors went well above, beyond call of duty

As I come closer and closer to my graduation from this institution I have started to think very seriously about those teachers that still stand out in my mind above all the rest.

In the process of this retrospection I begin to wonder what it is that makes a great teacher. How does a person bring forth and inspire a student’s absolute best like some of my past instructors have? How do so few do so much for so many with such little reward?

President Bush suggested testing classes and basing teachers’ salaries on their performances. I don’t know if this is fair or not, but I certainly do not argue with the principle that teachers should be held to a high standard of performance.

Whatever your position on these difficult questions, one thing is certain: Those truly great teachers should be praised for their effort.

Not all teachers mind you, only those who are free of the restraints of the almighty Teacher’s Manual and the desire to reap monetary rewards or public acclaim.

These selfless individuals are some of my heroes, and, perhaps, in the course of my recollection, you, the reader, can also take a moment to reflect on those instructors who have had a hand in shaping the person you have become.

I thought back to what I was like as a first semester freshman here at UW-Eau Claire. I think about Thursday night drinking binges, and the remote chance of making my Friday class (even though it wasn’t until 11 a.m.).

Yet again, here lies an example of an instructor with the ability to inspire even through the worst hangover.

I had Ronald Warlowski for Nazis in Germany that hour. Dr. Warlowski did not have notes and he did not have a neat-o power point display. He wrote on the board only to spell out names, and, in all reality, he rarely moved from his position in the classroom.

He simply entered the room and spoke for 50 minutes. Oddly enough, no matter what my physical condition on Friday mornings, or my level of apathy towards academia at the time, I never missed his class.

Truth be told, I stopped taking notes about half way through the semester. You see I simply didn’t have to anymore. The pictures in my mind of the persons and places of that time in history were portrayed so vividly in his lectures that it was completely unnecessary to take down reminders.

He was just that good.

I also think of William Woody whose History and Systems of Psychology class I had the honor of taking last semester.

It is a veritable tragedy that Dr. Woody is leaving Eau Claire, and a blessing for those students he will instruct at his destination.

I can still remember trying, in vain, to remain in step with the brilliant flurry of ideas that he poured forth each and every time that class met, or the relentless demand that his lectures would place on my critical thinking skills.

In fact, after attending his “last” lecture the other night my roommate turned to me and said, “That man exudes intelligence.”

After thinking about that statement for some time I realized that, no, what Dr. Woody exudes is thought.

Yes, completely unrestrained, boundless thought, and he has an unparalleled talent for passing that trait on to his students.

Dr. Woody, you will be missed.

These are just two of the many teachers who literally have shaped my life during its serpentine course, and I have the utmost admiration for each of them as well as those who remain unmentioned.

Is there any question that one of the greatest challenges that we will be forced to meet as a generation will be simply how we can best serve the educational needs of those generations that will follow us?

And, as the media and government ramble onward and upward about “student testing,” and “performance-based pay,” and “school choice,” and the sad state of so many of our high school and college graduates, aren’t we neglecting to mention those instructors who have performed above and beyond the call of duty?

Aren’t we overlooking the sacrifices made by those instructors who have willingly taken it into their own hands to reform and improve education in America, and who have the gift and the desire to not just teach, but truly inspire their pupils to give all of themselves? And haven’t we forgotten those teachers who ask no reward save the opportunity to pass on what they have learned to us?

If we have neglected these people then we should be ashamed of ourselves as a country and as a generation of world citizens. I can tell you, without a moment’s hesitation, that I would not be who I am today without having had the privilege of learning from these individuals.

And to that I can simply and humbly say, “Thank You.”