In praise of teachers who go above and beyond

Posted By on July 26, 2014

It is pretty easy to be cynical as a squeezed taxpayer seeing the waste and excess by those who manage public money. I regularly deride the inefficiencies in publically funded programs … particularly those highlighted in the news. (ie. VA, IRS, quirky grants and crony project contracts like Solyndra or “the bridge to nowhere” – I could go on forever!) I actually had a discussion on “squeezed taxpapers” this week with my dad about my brother retiring from WPAFB as a  federal civilian worker at age 52 and wondered just how much longer the Average Joe/Jane will support the current benefit packages?  Currently it seems if public employees have significantly better retirement options than those who also pay taxes and will be working well beyond the accepted retirement age … some may never feel they can retire?  I have no ill feelings for those who are enjoying early, mid and late 50s retirement with an actual pension (what’s that? – sarcasm) and fully paid healthcare insurance … reminiscent of plans that existed before implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare … but does this model really work long term? I’m not sure it can since our nation is nearly $18 Trillion in debt and has fewer private sector citizens with pensions and company paid health insurance … let alone the option to receive it in their 50s.

Whoa … did I go off track! Back to my point of “praise” for teachers.


Both of my children were fortunate have an excellent public school education. Well I say “fortunate,” but really it says something about the choices we parents make as well. We “chose” the community we live in based on the school districts reputation. In fact, it may have been the primary consideration when we moved here. We also took an interest in how our schools were managed and tried to stay involved with our kids education … sort of a working partnership with their teachers.sandeecoatshaan2014 If any of the above is missing, don’t expect a positive outcome. Still there are differences in teachers. Some treat it as a paycheck while others see it as a “calling” or at least a profession. My praise is for two of the many “public school teacher” that were part of my children’s education. 

For my daughter it was her Lakota East High School Physics teacher, Sandee Coats-Haan, who besides being an excellent teacher, went beyond in her off time to suggest and write a letter of recommendation that awarded Katelyn a summer internship in the johnsevernsNASA Sharp program out in New Mexico. What an excellent growth experience as well as something that enhanced her college résumé.

For my son, that special teacher was John Severns who besides being an excellent science teacher, decided not to pick a top student to be his teaching assistant. Instead, he gave the extra classroom time and job of teacher’s pet assistant (smile) to Taylor which kept him focused on a a subject that was challenging for him. Taylor worked a bit harder in that class so as not to disappoint Mr. Severns  and was an experience that prevented him from giving up in science. This past week, 6 years after graduation from both high school and college and now gainfully employed, Taylor reconnected with Mr. Severns, and his son, who were traveling through Williston, North Dakota on vacation. I sure was nice that they took time and stopped for a visit. It likely was rewarding for both.

I doubt many teachers realize it at the time, but their extra effort can impact students in profound way. I’m glad “some of them” put in the extra effort.  Parents –  pick your community wisely, elect a passionate school board and make sure you give your local schools what they need in order to hire and retain the best teachers (of course with unions this opens up an entirely different discussion — another day). 

While I’m at it, t is probably a good place for me to remember a couple teachers in my life too … Mrs. Hopkins (6th grade) and Dana Stahlman (High School); I don’t think either knew how they impacted me, but thanks … AND thanks to all those teachers who strive to be like Sandee and John.


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