Roundtable: World Teachers' Day
Jennifer Prosek, Mark Kollar, Joshua Passman, Thomas Rozycki, Aaron Steinfeld, Kevin Anthony, Jamie Kloss, Courtney Bowers
Yesterday, October 5th, was World Teachers' Day. Words alone can never be enough to thank the countless hours and tireless devotion that so many teachers pour into their jobs. Through not only lessons in the classroom, but lessons about life itself, one would be hard-pressed to find a person without an inspirational story imparted to them by one of their favorite role models. To help celebrate the compassionate workforce that educates generation after generation on a global scale, several of us have decided to share heart-warming and encouraging stories by responding to the following question:
As students and educators alike look back on World Teacher's Day, do you have a memorable lesson or valuable experience you recall fondly that's helped guide you to be the person today?
Grab yourself number two pencil, pull up a seat, and put your thinking caps on. We're getting right into it.
Today I'd like to write about the most important teacher in my life. Someone who taught students for more than 30 years and who was adored by everyone in the town where he taught. He had a thick accent from his upbringing in Brazil, and when he entered stores or movie theaters in town, kids would—often in unison—utter a memorable one liner from his class. I fondly remember walking into a movie theater and what seemed like 50 kids sang out, in unison, "there are thousands and thousands of stars in the sky." You see this teacher was also an astronomer and held court in the planetarium at school in addition to the classroom where he taught science. This man is my father, Louis Prosek.
Having a dad who is a teacher can be a double edge sword. If a teacher ever called home about my bad behavior in class, the punishment would be severe. Due to the professional empathy, the odds were clearly not in my favor. But the flip side of having a father that was a science teacher meant every day was an adventure. If we spotted an interesting insect, we would need to look it up, draw it, log it, and understand it. If we caught a fish (that we were keeping for dinner), we would open up its stomach to see what it had eaten. My dad helped me to understand the night sky and to have an appreciation for biology and genetics that shaped the way I think about life. I learned to observe, to explore, and to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. That love of exploration, discovery and curiosity has undeniably shaped my life.
World Teachers' Day is the time to reflect on all the teachers who contributed to my life, but most of all to my own dad, who inspired so many children in their development but also shaped my way of thinking. And now that I am a parent myself, I find myself being especially grateful as I use everything he taught me to pass on the same experience to my daughter. Thank you dad.
~Jen Prosek (Follow Jen on LinkedIn)
A few weeks ago, the Hofstra community (my alma mater) lost an incredible leader, mentor, and above of all, human being. Pete Libman, former Dean of Students, passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 51. My interactions with Pete revolved mostly around the Office of Residential Programs, where I was employed as a Resident Assistant (RA) for three years. At the end of every (dreaded) summer training session, Pete was there to give his annual kickoff speech to the RAs. Each time, I walked away thinking how invested this man was in not only Hofstra and its policies/procedures, but most importantly, its student body.
For Pete, Dean of Students wasn't just a title on an office door. He was an active member of the community and attended nearly every campus event during my four years there that I can remember, many of them on weekends. It was a role that he embodied and always went above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of countless students. Perhaps most impressive about Pete was his reputation around campus. Long before I became an RA or had even met Pete, I knew of him. Everyone did. He was the administrator that would hear out a student's concerns or support a new initiative when no one else would. If I had to pick one lesson I learned from him, it's how important empowering people can be, no matter what form it takes. The outpouring of stories about Pete from students online over the last couple weeks has only reinforced that. There's no doubt in my mind that Pete's legacy will continue to live on at Hofstra, and through the thousands of students he has impacted in some capacity.
~Kevin Anthony (Follow Kevin on LinkedIn)
I attended Ramapo Senior High School in Spring Valley, NY. One year I got mononucleosis and had to miss nearly three weeks of school. I was in an Advanced Placement (AP) biology course at the time, which I found to be extremely challenging. Well, missing three weeks of school did not make it any easier for me to succeed in this class.
When I returned to school, I found myself completely lost and extremely behind the rest of the class. My teacher, Dr. Gross, went out of his way to spend time with me each day after school ended to tutor me. He put in plenty of extra time to make sure I caught up with the rest of the class.
Teachers do not get paid extra-time for this. They don't get a financial bonus at the end of the year for going out of their way to help their students. He did this because he was a genuinely good man and concerned teacher. He also taught me the importance of being generous with one's time and the impact that it can make on someone else.
~Josh Passman (Follow Josh on LinkedIn)
One of the best parts about growing up in a small town was being able to share a few of the same teachers that my parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and brothers had, with one in particular standing out as the most significant.
Mr. Harper was an intimidating teacher to say the least, strict in following a set schedule and commanding the utmost respect from everyone. He lectured for 45 minutes without pause every class period and wouldn't dismiss the class if anybody dared to pack up early. The term "casual Friday" wasn't in his vocabulary, and he's been known to wear a jacket and tie to do some Saturday morning yard work. He retired from teaching after my junior year of high school, and I happened to be in the final class he taught. Leading up to the last day of school, we noticed Mr. Harper pulling students aside for quick chats, but no one would say what they'd talked about.
On the last day of school that year, I was wandering the halls without a pass, when Mr. Harper stepped out of his classroom and asked me to talk. The thirty second walk to the classroom could have lasted the past six years, it felt so long. Instead of getting in trouble, though, that talk turned into one of my most treasured high school experiences. I'd be lying if I said I remembered every word he said, but I'll never forget the sentiment: wishing me the best and encouraging me to take chances, saying he was so happy to have been able to teach the entire Bowers family. Through expecting the most of everyone, commanding respect and in turn respecting his students, Mr. Harper still stands out as one of the most impactful teachers I've ever had.
~Courtney Bowers (Follow Courtney on LinkedIn)
I probably wouldn't be who I am today without "suffering" under the benevolent dictatorship of Sister Antillia, who only referred to me as "Markie."
- From her, I learned respect;
- I learned to respect fear (it's a motivator);
- I learned a sense of drama: how to read out loud to an audience and with effect;
- I learned to properly write: grammar rules (don't even think of dangling a participle in front of me) and punctuation rules especially, as well as the importance of proper spelling;
- I learned the importance of teamwork;
- I learned that neatness and appearance matter and that it's better to be put together then put on airs;
- I learned to always check your work, at least three times;
- I learned equality and, even back then, "girl power" (it's a nun thing);
- I learned discipline and that kneeling on your knuckles for an hour in the cloak room would make sure you would never forget any of the above
- And I learned that manners matter
Sister Antillia, thank you. ~Mark Kollar (Follow Mark on LinkedIn)
My senior year crisis communications class was my first true taste of the fast-paced, crazy PR world that I now inhabit full-time. The class was taught by Kurt Wise, chair of the PR department at the time, and the news of the day drove our class discussion. There was certainly no shortage of crises that semester—most notably Penn State and the Costa Concordia ship—and we spent many class periods analyzing how organizations navigated their various predicaments.
Yet the true value of the class was not in discussing real-life crises, but in dealing with crisis situations concocted by Professor Wise. On crisis days he quickly split us into teams, appointed us to various roles within our fictional organization, and handed us a situation which would make any PR pro reach for the Excedrin Migraine. Our company's cruise ship was stuck out at sea; our CEO was suspected of embezzling money. He tasked us with formulating a strategy, drafting communications for internal and external stakeholders, and responding to media inquiries. The kicker was that these crises weren't only doled out during class hours. One morning he sent us a 6:00AM email detailing a situation that we needed to handle before our session that afternoon.
The projects were stressful, but the class kept me on my toes. I became less overwhelmed by the flurry of emails from imaginary reporters, board members, and employees—and more empowered to find the right approach. At the end of each simulation, he would always slyly ask us, "So, who still wants to do crisis communications?"
Throughout the semester, he pushed us to understand what life as a PR pro was really like. He encouraged us to chase the industries, places, and positions that made us happy. And ultimately, he reinforced that where I was headed—right here—was the right choice.
~Jamie Kloss (Follow Jamie on LinkedIn)
The "best teacher" that I ever have had is an amalgamation of many individuals that I carry in my heart and mind every day. I can sum up their impact in three short but very meaningful maxims:
1. You've got to improve. Every day. Throughout my academic career I had a tendency to "mail it in." I knew what work looked like, so I did just enough to get the grade. The best teachers I had, however, wouldn't let me settle. They knew my capabilities and when I was not giving my best, and I got a lot of "just passing" grades as a result. The message was loud and clear: this is "good enough", but not "the best you can do." Pushing me to always achieve my personal best was so much more important than simply fulfilling the assignment.
2. You've got to show up. Every day. My current supervisor places extreme importance on not just being present in the office, but being present in the moment. In my university days, I had two professors that knocked me down a grade even though my work was "good enough." By choosing to skip class and not being present, I deprived myself of the opportunity to learn from my classmates and also contribute to their experience. Quite simply, checking the box is not enough ... you've got to be present and contribute to be a valued member of the team.
3. You've got to show humility. Every day. More than your product and your presence, you will be measured by your humanity. Every teacher that I ever respected focused more on the person that I needed to become rather than the academic that I wanted to be. These lessons had the most enduring impact. You must be willing to embrace contrary opinions, understand the person on the other side of the table and remember that your frame of reference is very different from theirs. Use your intellect as an equalizer, not a weapon. Be firm, but show that you are willing to compromise. Never burn a bridge when one can be built. These simple phrases have guided my professional life, and have been instrumental in the success I have achieved.
~Thomas Rozycki (Follow Thomas on LinkedIn)
What are your most memorable moments and experiences from your favorite teacher(s)?