Milaca teachers, you were appreciated!

Lesley Toth

In observance of National Teachers Appreciation Week, May 7-11, I thought it appropriate to pay tribute to some of the amazing educators Milaca has offered during the past few decades.

These teachers, some of whom have retired, while others  still work wonders in the classroom, have inspired excellence, encouraged learning and when needed (in my case, often) prodded compliance.

The earliest memories I have of my time at Milaca Public Schools is a few flashes from second grade. Teacher Donna Olson laid the groundwork for me in addition, subtraction, reading more than a paragraph at a time and writing letters. She’s still at it for today’s second-graders.

I’ll never forget my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Johnson, who read us thrillers like “Goosebumps,” and sparked my interest in the scary, gross and supernatural literature genres. I hope fourth-graders today are still saving up their auction bucks for those fun-filled bidding contests.

Flash-foward to sixth grade and Mrs. Judy Mott’s grammar studies. I can still recite those useful helping verb and preposition songs. I don’t think I’ve ever handed in more book reports and enjoyed doing it so much in my life.  Across the hall in Mr. “Sod’s” (Soderstrom), I was enthralled with the world of geography.

In seventh grade, the Garbers reigned supreme. Martin opened my mind to the beauty of music, instilling a lifelong passion, while Gwen expanded my horizons in the realm of social studies and early American history. Randy Johnson made science come alive with engaging assignments and explanations of strange concepts.

Due to the amazing experience in Pat Nelson’s eighth-grade social studies mock trial, I nearly pursued a career in law. As it turned out, however, I simply like to argue. But the assignment taught me that a little research, a whole lot of facts and a healthy dose of passion make those arguments more fruitful.

I also remember making a killing on the faux stock trading ventures in Jere Day’s economics classes, but sadly I’ve forgotten how. If only fifth hour wasn’t right after lunch — I should have paid better attention.

In high school, Mr. Darwin Bruesewitz coaxed this shy, alto voice into something I could use outside of the shower and share with others. The karaoke bars may never forgive him, but I loved him for it.

Micheala Esselman’s art classes were always a treat, and I signed up for as many as were available. Her winning smile and great sense of humor were a welcomed presence in the classroom.

College prep teacher “Mad” Jack Palmer provided me with the firm hand of guidance I required. He taught me no matter how much others gushed about my writing, I could always improve. He demanded the best from me and refused to let me slack. From him, I learned “good enough” is never good enough, and I will forever be grateful.

Not to let my bias for English teachers overshadow the contributions from the “hard sciences” — math teacher Joe Wenner deserves  special accolades. I understand now “why we have to learn this stuff.” Thank you for your eternal patience, your ability to explain trigonometry in people words, and your discerning use of detention.

So many more teachers should be highlighted in this tribute. So many more deserve my gratitude (and a few my apologies for contributions to those gray hairs). Despite my rolling eyes, my casual leaning back in my chair and my knack for the annoying — I was listening. Message received, and many thanks to you all.