Summer of Thanks #15 – Presque Isle High School’s Mr. Hendrickson and Mr. Lord


Hendrickson and Lord Mr Hendrickson - Senior YearI don’t think back in time very often (I acknowledge the irony of this given my position as a teacher of history); what is probably more specific is that I don’t think back into my own timeline very often.   When my friend Robin and I were at our 30th reunion and it was a joke between us that I did not remember more than 10 people from high school; I mean, did not remember them at all.  In fact, I can only recall a couple teachers and not many experiences from those years.  The only exceptions to historical blind spot are my two favorite teachers, Mr. Hendrickson and Mr. Lord.

I was nondescript in high school; sliding between the cracks in the linoleum.  Mr. Hendrickson showed an interest in me; he hooked me into rock climbing and camping.  Our small group trip to the coast of Maine to climb was the highlight of my high school years; it made me feel special to belong to something.  I appreciated Mr. Hendrickson’s humor and sarcasm; I seem to have carried both into my own teaching.

Mr. Lord was my Biology teacher and picked me to be a Biology Lap aide; which I loved; but the thing that had a lasting impact on me was the Biology field trip that was so special to generations of Presque Isle High School students.  The joy of outdoor learning instilled by Mr. Lord was a integral part of my becoming involved with our districts Camp Tecumseh program.  I have seen the joy of my own outdoor experience in the faces of so many of our junior high students.  Last summer I was able to stop by and see Mr. Lord, retired and living in Southern Maine.  It was a highlight for me.

So thank you to my high school teachers from so long ago.

Summer of Thanks #14 – Tom Teitgen

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Notre Dame - Tom and Mike on the 50My next summer of thanks goes out to my friend Tom Teitgen.  Tom is my friend that I can talk to for hours and disagree with the entire time and find that I enjoyed the conversation.  Tom likes to argue.  I like to argue.  It makes for great theater.

Tom’s family is important to my family; my wife and Tom’s wife, Barb, are friends.  They are members of the ’58s friend group that all of us were born in 1958; so we hit our birthday milestones the same year.   I taught one of their kids, Katie, and both Katie and Jake were great Camp Tecumseh counselors for my school.

There is a side to Tom that is more important to me.  When Ally was in elementary school there was a day for grandparents to come to class; we do not have any family close by so Tom and Barb went as Ally’s “grandparents”; it meant so much to Ally, it meant just as much to me.  Tom has an unselfishness to him; he has taken the time to help my resurrect Laurel’s computer more times than I can count, on his own he went out to our house when it was under construction every Saturday to walk around and make sure everything looked right, we wired the house with extra phone jacks, he was my “engineer” opinion on everything, and so much more.

Tom’s generosity has allowed our family to vacation in Florida three times at his family condo, he took me to see a football game at Notre Dame, and most of all he has been my friend.

Summer of Thanks #13 – Brian Cronk

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Cup O CronkI have been blessed with working for three great principals; Roger Norris hired me and was my principal for two years.  My second principal and Fishers Junior High School’s first principal was Brian Cronk; he established the building, every tradition started during Brian’s reign.

Brian is my friend; I used to hide in his office after school and just stare out the window; he never felt the need to interrupt my stare he just kept working.  We could talk for hours about baseball remembering players from long ago.  Brian, Mike Beresford, and I did a book study on A Purpose Driven Life together.  His friendship alone would be enough to earn my thanks, but it was his time as principal that earns this thanks.
Brian’s gruff demeanor hides a genuine heart for people and students.  He cares greatly for his staff (still does) and has been an empathetic ear to so many.  As a leader he trusted us.  He understood that if you hire good, hardworking people that they would work hard  to do what was best for kids.  He would listen to ideas and some he would agree with and some he would not, but in the end his decisions were not about the easy path, it was about the right path.

Nobody worked harder than Brian.  He spent hours beyond the normal day getting things done.  He did so to try and protect his staff from needless busy work.  I loved him for that.  When I would bring my girls in to the school on Saturdays they loved to go by themselves down to the teachers lounge and get a soda; there were times that they would be gone longer than expected, but I did not worry because I knew were they were.  I would walk down to the principal’s office and there they would be engrossed in a conversation with Mr. Cronk; he would put aside everything that he was working on and engage two elementary age girls in a conversation about life and school; they still hold those memories of him as dear.

I count my blessings to have worked for Brian for a decade and with him for 17 years.

Summer of Thanks #12 – Robin Collins

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Mike, Robin, Tim in front of Recruiting StationMy next Summer of Thanks goes to my oldest friend.  Robin and I met went in 5th grade when my family moved from Caribou to Presque Isle.  In those formative years of my life Robin was my constant; he was my friend and the person that I could count on through middle school and high school.  In the picture above, Robin is in the middle and my other childhood friend, Tim Brown, is on the right.  All three of us would go into the military after high school and college; only Robin would to go to college first.

In life it is important to have someone that is there for you in life.  Robin and I would go our separate ways after high school, but over the years we have crossed paths and talked on the phone.  Our conversations are not strained because our friendship has no strains.  We know each other’s life story.

I still count Rob as my oldest friend.

Summer of Thanks #11 – Steve Hamer

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Hamer Photos (1)Today’s Summer of Thanks goes to Steve Hamer one of my best friends in the world.  While his friendship is a treasure, it is not the reason for this thank you.  Steve is the person who helped me become handy around the house; he also showed me what being a good neighbor is all about.   “Firefighter” Steve is blessed by a great family that is an important part of Laurel and I’s life here in Fishers.

Over the last 3 days I have been helping another friend put in a laminate floor into his door stairs.  It was Dave’s first attempt at doing this and he was a little inexperienced; it is a major task that involved pulling out carpeting, prepping the floor, stripping bathrooms to include resetting a toilet bowl, laying laminate that would be seamed correctly, running quarter round, and placing transitions.  The job would involved lots of cuts, angles, and challenges; something Dave had never done.

Dave posted this on Instagram last night:


Who Dave needed to include in his thanks is Steve Hamer.  There is no one who has taught me more about doing things around the house.  He was, and still is, patient with me as I learned from him.  However, advice is not what makes Steve special; when I would be working on a big project on our old house in Sunblest there would be that moment when Steve would come around the corner after working all day or on his infrequent day off with his tool belt on ready to help.  When my basement flooded two years ago he was my first call and he immediately diverted himself from a job and came over and helped me get it under control.  He never complained, he just pitched in and somehow made the burden lighter.  I try to return the favor as much as possible, but I know the ledger is far in his favor.  Steve is the neighbor and friend that I try to be to others.  Thank you my friend.  Below is a picture of Steve helping me build a playhouse for my girls many years ago (my friend Scott is blocking him, but those are his legs; Scott is not helping he is just commenting 🙂 about our work).

M - Building the Schoolhouse - 2002

Summer of Thanks #10 – My Camp Tecumseh Counselors

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1929469_13361866897_2272_nOne of our district’s hallmark programs is our 7th grade Camp Tecumseh field trip where we take the entire 7th grade to Camp Tecumseh for 2-nights and 3-days.  This outdoor education program is everything that is good about education.  The program breaks the chains that is the factory school model and merges outdoor experience, academic expectations, and, most importantly, mentoring by high school role models to junior high students that desperately need a guiding light through the teen years.  Over the years our tradition has grown so much that it is easier to get into an Ivy League school than become a FJH Tecumseh counselor (we normally take less than 30% of those that request an interview).

1929469_13246946897_3955_nIn this post, I would like to publicly thank the 500 high school counselors that I have worked with over the past 16 years.  I assumed the role of co-director in my second year of teaching at Hamilton Southeastern Junior High and just completed my 16th camp in April.  Camp would not exist without these role model counselors that show my junior high kids that you can be smart (we have a grade requirement), have fun, and still be “cool”.

26853_389977941897_3824272_nThey have taught the lessons and found a way to encourage their young charges to do their work.  Completing the work is not always fun, but my counselors have tried their best every year to make education a focus during the working hours.

1929469_13358116897_6299_nThey have taken every challenge to ensure that every kid is able to enjoy Camp.  Chris’ counselor was Cody Marks who did not let the fact that Chris was in a wheel chair slow his group down.  Chris loved the Black Hole and Cody would put him on the sled and send him down and then he went to the bottom of the hill and carried him back up to go again (one of my favorite counselor stories to tell others why my high school counselors are so special).  In Cody’s group was a 7th grade student named Jake Teitgen who would become the same kind of big hearted counselor 3 years later.

1929598_545937559697_6268_nTony and I have said goodbye to so many terrific senior counselors; the counselor meeting before the breakfast meal on Wednesday and Friday is a scene of many an ugly cry.  It is in that time that we tell these terrific world changers how important they are to the district, our kids, and to us.  After 32 goodbyes you would think my heart would harden against the goodbyes, but it has never gotten easier.  I have so much love and appreciation for what these kids do and go through to be a counselor.  Also, it is a hard day for the senior counselors as it ends their time as a counselor (an experience that they can best explain and maybe some of them will in the comments).

1929506_543210878937_2486_nSo to all you “tough” counselors; thank you!

207229_1007577987352_6138_nTo all you “J.C. Penny’s”; thank you?

205707_1007578147356_7157_nTo all you ‘Movie Theatre” performers (my favorite skit); thank you.

26853_390029466897_602861_nTo all you who visited the “Doctor’s Office”; thank you.

26853_390028166897_6651172_nTo all you that inspired dancers; thank you.

1929469_13361466897_8835_nTo all you who have been “pudding” face or hands; thank you.

1929469_13366481897_6734_nTo all you that inspire 7th graders to want to be counselors; thank you.

IMG_2122To all of you that led “YouTube Karaoke” when 6 inches of rain fell; thank you.

1929902_525843553414_9656_nTo all of you that made Camp Tecumseh a great experience for so many terrific 7th graders; thank you.



Summer of Thanks #9 – My “Friday” People

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Friday PeopleIt is natural when you teach to become close with some students.  There is no group of students in my teaching career that means more to me than my “Friday” People.  First they are called that because when they left the junior high school and went to the high school they would come to see me normally on Fridays; this got me out of a few junior high dances; another reason that they earn my thanks.

I can honestly say that I truly love these kids (even though they have all graduated from college, except for Tiernan who may never leave academia and Julia who has returned to school for a Masters) as family.  I have shed tears at every phase of their lives and, luckily, they have continued to include me in theirs.

  • (Far Left).  Meghan (Cross) Krueger.  I have not known many people as sweet and kind as Meghan.  She might be the world’s nicest person, but what separates her is her servant’s heart.  After college and securing her first “big-girl” job, she gave it all up to work for Redeemed Ministries; an ministry dedicated to those trapped in horrors of human trafficking.  Many who claim to be Christian have left out the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in their daily lives, because they are the tough books to live up to; there is a lot of stuff about loving your fellow man, working to end suffering, putting others ahead of yourself…the tough stuff.  Every day I am proud of my former Student of the Year; she has been an inspiration for me.
  • (Second from the left). Julia Mathews.  Julia was my Student of the Year, Yearbook Editor, Camp Tecumseh counselor, Queen of the “One-Liner”, and fellow lover of Chili Cheese Corn Chips.  Julia was for me the hub of the Friday people; as it was through her that nearly everyone else connected.  Julia through junior high and high school was a lynch pin for me; whatever needed to be done, she would get done.  She also receives some extra love for introducing me to Marvin’s at Depauw. Plus when she is mad, she types really loud (inside joke for the Friday people).
  • (Third from the left). Tiernan Kane or “T-mail” from long ago.  Tiernan and I had a little bit of a rocky start together; his procrastination and my desire for him to give me his best work collided a bit early on; but, while he still procrastinates, he has gotten better at covering it up.  Tiernan is brilliant, opinionated, and verbose; so it makes for great sport.  I love talking politics with him.  Tiernan is bound to live a life grounded in academia; someday, he will teaching at the college level with a side of policy wonk .
  • (Center).  Brad Pitt.  The former heartthrob has let himself go in the last couple years and without the makeup artists in Hollywood he has a completely different look.  Maybe it is all those kids.
  • (Third from the right). Natalie Mathews.  My favorite student that I never taught.  I never taught Natalie, but we spent so much time together with yearbook during junior high that I tell everyone that she was my student.  Natalie is the person that gets us together.  I was honored to be invited to her and Trent’s wedding and she made me ugly cry when she included a reading from a Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet  that I had given her years before.
  • (Second from the right).  Kylie Christensen.  Big city girl living in small town Fishers.  She always said that she would live in New York; and today she lives in Gotham working in the Film industry after graduating from NYU.  Kylie weaves the long stories that make me laugh.  Kylie does not get back much now, but I had a chance to talk to her at Natalie’s wedding and she is still the girl I remember and love.
  • (Far right).  Erica Viar.  The anti-cheerleader stereotype (another Friday people inside joke).  Erica does not know how to not be successful; she wanted to major in business after high school and get accepted to the Kelley School at IU, decides to add a law degree on top of that so she graduates from IU Law School a month ago.  Last we talked she had a job offer with a company that she interned.  When we get a chance to meet for coffee she always seems to be moving forward; there is always the next big milestone to be achieved.

Now these kids are all adults now and the weddings have started.  No matter where they go my heart travels with them.  They made my Fridays wonderful for a couple years and my days sweeter when they could visit or call.   It seems fitting to modify a quote from Khalil Gibran’s chapter about Friendship.   “And a youth said, “Speak to us of Friendship.”  Your friends are your needs answered.  They are your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.  And they are your board and your fireside.”  Thank you my friends.

NPR Readers’ List of the Top 100 Best Young Adult Books

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NPR Readers’ List of the Top 100 Best Young Adult Books

The list is not without some disagreement, but it is good place to start if you are looking for something to read this summer.  Amazing how many of these books I have read.

Summer of Thanks #8 – My Girls

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Caitlin and Mike - Tar Heels - Rec ChampsCaitlin - Julias Glasses - Tecumseh 2012I always wanted to be a father.  There was a time when I did not think that was going to happen; but, luckily, after some heartbreaking attempts it finally happened; February 15, 1995, Caitlin arrived.  Her birth changed my life; completely, I was responsible for another human being.  I have told the story before how prior to Caitlin’s birth I was never really afraid, but how I have been afraid every day since her birth.  I loved her from the moment our eyes met; I knew that I would give up all my next breaths for her to breathe one more time.  When she was young she was so guarded; looking at her photos she never really smiled big in her photos.  We found our bond over softball.  I started coaching her when she was 6 years old and would spend three seasons a year with her for the next 10 years.  The wins and losses have faded away, but I miss throwing and side tossing to her.  Today she has so many of my traits in her; she is direct and sometimes struggles to filter what comes out of her mouth, but she works so hard and has a genuine love for kids.  I think her time as a Tecumseh counselor really showed her love of kids; she was one of the counselors that made kids forget about the terrible weather and just have a good time.   Now, she is on the transition away from her parents having completed her first year of college.  Where ever she goes she will carry a part of my heart with her.

A and M - June 2012A and M - Sleeping - 1998On July 10, 1996 our family added my Irish beauty Ally.  She is not her sister and somehow she and I bonded over our love of music.  The picture of  us on the roof of my school during a fundraiser to put a teacher on the roof is my favorite.  As a child, Ally was sickly from milk allergies; it was during that time that we spent a lot of time together.  I would hold her a lot trying to bring her comfort.  As a child she had so much personality that she brought a smile to everyone’s face who got to witness a show from the bricks in front of the fireplace.  Now Ally was not destined to be an athlete; she hated the sun and sweating was not her thing; even though she was really good at setting up the snacks for the after game celebrations.  As Ally aged she discovered that she could sing and there is nothing I love more at the high school than their music programs.  It is in the performing arts that she has found a home at the high school.  I love watching every performance and musical that she has performed; when she is on stage my eyes stay focused on her (waiting for the *wink* when she finds me in the audience).  Now Ally wants to follow her father into teaching (she has a love kids); I would love for her to go into a STEM career field as she is math bright, but she needs to follow her heart.

I have been blessed by my two children. It has not always been easy, but my heart has never been so filled with love.

Being cool in middle school can lead to trouble in adulthood

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Being cool in middle school can lead to trouble in adulthood

Interesting theory that I have noticed over the past 17 years teaching junior high.

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