Current weather

  • Scattered clouds
  • 54°
    Scattered clouds

To find heroes, look no further than neighborhood school

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2001

"Where are the heroes of today?" a radio talk show host thundered.

He blames society's shortcomings on public education. Too many people are looking for heroes in all the wrong places. Movie stars and rock musicians, athletes and models aren't heroes; they're celebrities.

Heroes abound in public schools, a fact that doesn't make the news. There is no precedent for the level of violence, drugs, broken homes, child abuse and crime in today's America. Public education didn't create these problems but deals with them every day.

You want heroes?

Consider Dave Sanders, the school teacher shot to death while trying to shield his students from two Neo-Nazi youths on a bombing and shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Sanders gave his life, along with 12 students, but other less heralded heroes survived the Colorado blood bath.

You want heroes?

Columbine special education teacher Robin Ortiz braved gunfire, moving from classroom to classroom, shouting at students and teachers to get out of the building. His action alone cleared the east side of the high school. No one will ever know how many lives he saved.

You want heroes?

For Ronnie Holuby, a Fort Gibson, Okla., middle school teacher, it was a routine school day until gunfire erupted. He opened a door to the schoolyard and two students fled past him. A 13-year-old student had shot five other students when Holuby stepped outside, walking deliberately toward the boy, telling him to hand over the gun. He kept walking. Finally the boy handed him the gun. Holuby walked the boy to the side of the building, then sought to help a wounded girl.

You want heroes?

Jane Smith, a Fayetteville, N.C., teacher, was moved by the plight of one of her students, a boy dying for want of a kidney transplant. So this pretty white woman told the family of this handsome 14-year old black boy that she would give him one of her kidneys. And she did. When they subsequently appeared together hugging on the Today Show, even tough little Katie Couric was near tears.

You want heroes?

Doris Dillon dreamed all her life of being a teacher. She not only made it, she was one of those wondrous teachers who could wring the best out of every single child. One of her fellow teachers in San Jose, Calif., said "she could teach a rock to read." Suddenly she was stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is always fatal, usually within five years. She asked to stay on the job and did. When her voice was affected she communicated by computer. Did she go home? She is running two elementary school libraries. When the disease was diagnosed, she wrote the staff and all the families that she had one last lesson to teach -- that dying is part of living. Her colleagues named her Teacher of the Year.

You want heroes?

Bob House, a teacher in Gay, Ga., tried out for "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." After he won the million dollars, a network film crew wanted to follow up to see how it had impacted his life. New cars? Big new house? Instead, they found both Bob House and his wife still teaching. They explained that it was what they had always wanted to do with their lives and that would not change. The community was both stunned and gratified.

You want heroes?

Last year the average public school teacher spent $468 of his own money for student necessities -- work books, pencils -- supplies kids have to have but could not afford. That's a lot of money from the pockets of the most poorly paid teachers in the industrial world.

Public schools don't teach values? The critics are dead wrong. Public education provides more Sunday school teachers than any other profession. The average teacher works more hours in nine months than the average 40-hour employee does in a year.

You want heroes?

For millions of kids, the hug they get from a teacher is the only hug they will get that day because the nation is living through the worst parenting in history. Many have never been taken to church or synagogue in their lives.

A Michigan principal moved me to tears with the story of her attempt to rescue a badly abused little boy who doted on a stuffed animal on her desk -- one that said "I love you!" He said he's never been told that at home.

This is a constant in today's society -- 2 million unwanted, unloved, abused children in the public schools, the only institution that takes them all in.

You want heroes?

Visit any special education class and watch the miracle of personal interaction, a job so difficult that fellow teachers are awed by the dedication they witness.

There is a sentence from an unnamed source that says, "We have been so anxious to give our children what we didn't have that we have neglected to give them what we did have."

What is it that our kids really need? What do they really want? Math, science, history and social studies are important, but children need love, confidence, encouragement, someone to talk to, someone to listen, standards to live by.

Teachers provide upright examples, the faith and assurance of responsible people. Kids need to be accountable to caring parents who send well-disciplined children to school. These human values are essential in a democracy -- anything that threatens them makes our whole society a little less free, our nation a little less strong.

These values can be neither created nor preserved without continuous effort, and that effort must come from more than teachers who have students only six hours of the day.

Despite the problems, public school teachers laugh often and much. They have the respect of intelligent people and the affection of students who care. You can bet that homeless little Jesus would have found a warm public school reception, hot food and a hug if he'd grown up in America.

Teachers strive to find the best in their students, even where some see little hope. No other American bestows a finer gift that teaching -- reaching out to the brilliant and the retarded, the gifted and the average.

Teachers leave the world a little bit better than they found it, knowing if they have redeemed just one life, they have done God's work.

They are America's unsung heroes.

Frosty Troy writes for the Oklahoma Observer. His column was distributed by the National Education Association in recognition of National Teacher Day, which was observed May 8.



CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS