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Rockstar Teachers

There's just something about certain teachers that draws students to them in droves and keeps them checking in years, even decades later. Here, we highlight some of these rockstars of the classroom.

Director takes joy in teaching student musicians, ‘to see what they can do and...

Band director Greg Wells grew up as part of Northview’s proud tradition, in a family of music educators, and feels honored to carry it on

She Collects Books, and Lets Students Choose Them

English teacher Katie Sluiter's Wyoming Junior High classroom is a testament to the power of words, in the books eighth-graders eagerly grab from her library and in the writing she did to get those 1,000 popular works onto her...

He Pushes Students to Excel, with Pushups and ‘Geronimo!’

When it comes to encouraging students to give it their all, band director Troy Anderson says take the leap and yell "Geronimo!" By that he means hold nothing back. Blow those horns and pound those drums with gusto. "Why are you...

Sisters Follow Identical Career Paths

West Godwin Elementary School Principal Steve Minard remembers interviewing teachers for a third-grade position. One candidate had an ideal background: an elementary education degree from Hope College and teaching experience in Honduras. Later that afternoon, another teacher interviewed with the...

Retirement, Yes! Leave School? No Way!

For Sue Blackall, retirement is just the beginning. After 32 years and 800 pupils, the Appleview Elementary third grade teacher plans to open the book on two new projects in the district when she hangs up her teacher's hat this...

‘Soul of Northview’ Says Students Are the Reward

Ted Burba loves to swim, and he’s good at it. He twice won the state diving championship as a student at East Grand Rapids High School, and in 1960 swam the last 50 yards for EGR’s state-champion 200-yard relay...

Teacher Challenges Students to Think, Take Risks

Mike Swift flipped off the lights in his eighth-grade language arts classroom. He momentarily went into the hall, cracked open the door and peered in, staring. His students shrieked. Swift had created an image they are not likely to forget...
Hugs from students like Allison Klimek are nothing unusual for English teacher David Lyons

‘Such Good and Such Promise in Each of Them’

Fourteen students form a semicircle, discussing in detail the meaning of a poem by Pablo Neruda, "I Like When You Are Quiet." Witness the teaching of David Lyons. He lets them talk for 45 minutes, with hardly a pause, about...

‘Feels like I just got here yesterday’

Kelly LaCroix has worked in the same classroom at Kettle Lake Elementary for two decades, and her enthusiasm continues to grow every day...

Her overarching goal: to teach that American ideals are worth striving for

Rebecca Debowski witnesses and guides her students as they learn to look at things in a more nuanced way and respect what one another have to say, from every perspective...

‘I show them another way, and another way, and another way’

A bank was robbed. Fifteen suspects – all middle-school staff members – had their mugshots taken, each holding a dollar bill up to their forehead. Algebra students were notified. The CSI team was waiting on video surveillance to confirm the...
“He’s very energetic,” said student Evelyn Griffin. “He makes learning fun”

‘The Classroom is Why I Wake Up in the Morning’

Eighth-grader Aaron Souter touched an iPad screen to maneuver a sphero along a stairwell floor, while classmate Ryan Reszka constructed an obstacle course of ramps for the plastic robot to jump. The coding skills students need to pull off the...

‘Nobody can take our education away’

After completing her student teaching at Thornapple Kellogg, Erin Kraker is back, bringing her own style to the classroom...

‘She will fill your bucket if you are empty’

This art teacher provides a solid skill base, then encourages her students to infuse their work with elements of their own lives. And she shares her own, which she says creates a safe space for them to reflect...

Fast Talking, Storm Chasing, Globe-Toting Teacher

The first thing you notice in Dave Carmichael's weather and science class is that he often carries around a globe, using it as a prop to explain intertropical convergence, polar jet streams and pressure belts. The second thing you notice...

Part Silly Adult, Human Monkey Bar; All Kindergarten Teacher

Gerald Neff sits on a kindergartner-size table at the front of his classroom on a recent morning and welcomes his class to a new day. "Morning Georgia! You're wearing a dress. Are you getting married today?" he asks a youngster...
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