Posts Tagged ‘Inspirational’

California Superintendant Declines Salary

August 30, 2011

Fresno School Superintendent Larry Powell is a reminder of what education should be about – selflessness and dedication.

I recall a survey conducted back in the US in 1998/99 that found that teachers spent an average of $448 of their own money on instructional materials and school supplies:

The survey conducted last summer by the National School Supply and Equipment Association — a trade group representing the school supply industry — found that teachers pay for 77 percent of the school supplies needed in their classrooms. The rest comes from the school, parent-teacher groups and other school funds.

Teacher expenditure would be even higher nowadays.  But when it comes to selflessness nothing can top the outstanding act of generosity and conviction by Larry Powell:

Fresno School Superintendent Larry Powell has agreed to give up $800,000 in salary that he would have earned over three years. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than what a starting California teacher earns.

“How much do we need to keep accumulating?” asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.”

Powell’s generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation’s highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes that his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.

“A part of me has chafed at what they did in Bell,” Powell said, recalling the corrupt Southern California city officials who secretly boosted their salaries by hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It’s hard to believe that someone in the public trust would do that to the public. My wife and I asked ourselves, ‘What can we do that might restore confidence in government?’ “

Powell’s answer? Ask his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next 3 1/2 years of his term. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year — $10,000 less than a first-year teacher — and with no benefits.

The media is riddled with terrible stories of teachers abusing their position and acting without integrity, it is so good to see a more positive story doing the rounds.

Thank you Mr. Powell for putting your convictions before your purse and your students before anything else.

Inspiring Teacher Who Taught Herself To Read

April 3, 2011

Below is an excerpt of an article about the inspiring teacher, Patty Gillespie, who was given passage through school without ever knowing how to read or write.  The article chronicles her struggle from an illiterate youth to her prominence as a brilliant teacher and devotee of helping instill a love of reading in kids:

Teaching comes naturally to Gillespie, a small woman who wears dresses to school, smiles a lot and waves her hands when she talks.

So does giving. Gillespie, whose favorite book is Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” gives away hundreds of donated books at school each year.

Being a student wasn’t as easy.

Gillespie, who grew up in Massachusetts, loved to play “school” before she was old enough to go. By first grade, she couldn’t keep up with her classmates in reading lessons. It would be years before learning disabilities were diagnosed.

“You could show me pictures of apples and say the short ‘a,’ and I heard ‘uh,’ ” she said. “To just hear the isolated sounds didn’t work.”

Help was hard to come by in an era when special education was for severely disabled children. Private tutors used the same phonics lessons that teachers did, so they read Gillespie’s schoolbooks to her instead.

Gillespie, a popular student, carefully hid her problems from classmates. She raised her hand to answer questions only when everybody else did; when she was called on, she told teachers she’d forgotten what to say.

By high school, her English teachers asked the same question each year: How did you get here without knowing how to read or write?

“It may have been wrong, but I think teachers continued to pass me because I tried so hard,” she said.

Gillespie also made it into Westfield State College in 1971, despite low scores on the SAT college entrance exam.

Gillespie’s parents knew she struggled. Still, for her they wanted the education they’d never had.

Her father, an insurance salesman, had turned down a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania so he could support his family. “I just said, ‘Hey, without the degree you won’t get very far in life,’ ” said Gillespie’s father, Bob Watson, 89.

Gillespie lived at home and drove to campus for classes. She was just as lost there as she had been in high school. This time, she found little sympathy from teachers.

The closer Gillespie got to academic probation – she says she was two-tenths of a point away her first semester – the more she wanted to walk away from her college education.

She changed her mind after a stern warning from her father: If that’s what you want to do, then quit. But remember you’ll always be a quitter.

“That really changed my life,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let him down.”

Gillespie started with vowels, using the pronunciation key of a dictionary and pictures instead of sounds.

For short “a,” she envisioned a black cat; an ape for long “a.”

She studied in her bedroom, between classes, up to eight hours a day for a year. In the beginning, it took two hours to get through three paragraphs of a textbook. Gillespie wouldn’t let herself turn the page until she understood what she’d read.

Not once did she want to quit.

“I knew I could do it,” she said. “That was the first time in my life.”

The full article is slightly longer.  I strongly recommend you read the full piece.  What a teacher!  What a story!

The Heroic Life of a Selfless Teacher

March 4, 2011

If there is something one can get out of the absolutely tragic story of a teacher who drowns in trying to rescue his students, it is the selflessness of teachers, heroically displayed by maths and science teacher Paul Simpson.

A schoolteacher has drowned in an apparent attempt to save his students from a rip at the notorious Bells Beach.

The man, believed to be aged in his 30s, died yesterday while supervising a group of Year 11 and 12 students from Shelford Girls Grammar, in Melbourne’s east.

The girls, aged about 15 years, had been snorkelling at 4.30pm when wild surf and a rip tide turned conditions dangerous.

The group of 19 students and three adults had been walking in knee- to waist-deep water on a reef when a wave knocked them off their feet and into deeper water, Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said.

Police said it was believed the teacher had been trying to rescue the girls before he drowned.

Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him on the shore of the surf beach near Torquay, 105km southeast of Melbourne.

Several teenagers had to be rescued from the water. One received treatment for an asthma attack. Others had minor injuries.

The distressed students, who were in shock, had to be helped to make their way back up the beach to a car park to be taken back to their camp at Torquay.

The teacher is question works at a school within walking distance of my home.  His bravery and unflinching desperation to rescue his students shows us what sacrifices a brilliant teacher can make for the safety and security of his students.  I extend my condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and students.  May his brief but meaningful life inspire others to strive to make selfless decisions whilst looking out for others.

If you have some time I encourage you to read tributes written by his former students on a special Facebook page dedicated to the memory of this incredible person.

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