When I reflect on the events that sparked my teaching career and the success that I have experienced in both teaching and in life, I can point back to one person, David Schlitt. David was my middle school drama teacher. Not only did David cast me in a play when I was a seventh grader, opening up a whole new world that encouraged me to discover who I was, but David also mentored me as a baby teacher, opening the door for my first job by shifting teaching assignments. The following two paragraphs are lifted from a 2006 blog post.
David, my middle school drama teacher, had a unique and very positive relationship with his students. In David’s class it was Ok to be yourself without being judged, a rare experience in middle school. In fact, you could be silly and make people laugh at what you were doing, not at who you were. David was the first teacher I had ever met who did not condescend to his students, but met them were they were emotionally, and could spar with them mentally and at their level. It was a unique and valuable experience. I gained confidence in who I was and began to trust my skills, my abilities, and myself however unrefined.
Our teacher/student relationship developed into a friendship after I went on to high school and college. When it became time for me to student teach, I knew exactly for whom I wanted to apprentice. I knew that David would allow me to not only “get my feet wet,” but also actually teach solo in his classroom. And he did. In fact, after my student teaching time was complete, David decided that he was ready for a change, and the principal offered me his assignment, which I gladly accepted. I knew that David believed in me from the time that I was 12 years old. I knew it because of the way he treated me with respect, and supported my decisions. David was a great teacher.
After a decade long pause in our conversation, David and I recently spoke on the phone. He is now teaching in his 38th year, and planning on 2 to 6 more in the classroom. David still teaches and inspires 7th graders to reach beyond their comfort zones and grow into who they will someday become. His students are lucky beyond their understanding.
It is important that ALL teachers strive to open up doors for their students and seek to draw out the strengths of each individual pupil. Clearly David recognized something in me way back when and if it were not for his guidance, and taking the time to work with me personally, I would not be the person that I am today. I can only hope to return the favor to a young person in one of my classes who is struggling to find their way. Thank you David for drawing me out, igniting the fire within, and for your friendship.