1397914655861My last summer of thanks goes out to the most important person in my teaching career.  Tony Sturgeon is the best teacher that I have known and he has been a major reason for any success that I have achieved.  In short, my career would have contained a major void without my partner of the last 18 years.  Tony is my colleague, foil, friend, and brother.  I count him in that small group in my life that will forever be part of my being and heart.  There will come a day when I retire and Tony will stay teaching; that is not a day that I relish facing.  The following is an excerpt from my book:

Teaching can be a Robinson Crusoe existence …. students aplenty just like coconuts, but peer interaction and support is not always found.  My greatest blessing in school has been my teaching partner-in-crime, Tony Sturgeon.  We have been teaching together for 16 years…we started together at first year teachers and despite the 14 years that separate us age-wise; he has been my friend, confidante, sounding-board, grounding wire, and educational brother.  Tony holds me accountable.  He is simply the best teacher in our district.  We have been an effective team, because our strengths compliment each other and our personalities push each other. 

Tony co-directs Camp Tecumseh with me <along with Maureen Randall who we call ‘mom’, because she takes care of us at camp> and part of our most enduring traditions is counselor and teacher skits.  There is a skit called Banana where one person plays the magician <the straight man> and the other plays the doofus volunteer; Tony plays the magician because he can stay on course is in the middle of chaos…I play the doofus because unscripted chaos is my area of comfort.  This is a metaphor for our teaching relationship.  We both have ideas, but Tony always handles the mechanics and keeps us on track.  Luckily for me, we still teach on the same team.   Our “Globetrotter” team used to be the four core subjects; last year the team was down to just English and Social Studies, but the core of our team has always been Tony. 

 Tony and I play the foils for our kids; he is Yankees and I am Red Sox, he is Star Wars and I’m Star Trek, he is pop music and I am power folk music, and we make fun of each other.  On the other hand we support each other’s classes and assignments.  We could grade each other’s work because we see education the same way.  We share professionally and keep each other on the edge.  He is my brother in arms.  There is no one that I trust more.

Over the years our group has expanded to the group called the BFM.  Educationally we are all very different from each other.  The bonding factor is the desire to do right by kids.  This group brings me joy, but more importantly brings so much to the school.  These guys have a love of kids that manifests into so many kid-first programs, for example the BFM has:

  1. Started our district’s first National Junior Honor Society that requires 50 hours of community service, high grades, and role model behavior. Nearly 25% of school is a member of NJHS.  This is not just a paper distinction.  These kids are the real deal.  We have seven staff members who volunteer for no pay to make this chapter vibrant.
  2. Started our school’s metal and paper recycling program that funds scholarships and other school project needs. We recycle 4 tons of paper each month on average and during the school year we will recycle 1000s of  pounds of aluminum cans.
  3. Sponsor our Charger Integrity Awards that recognizes the kids with the best character in every sport, extracurricular, and teaching team. We just finished recognizing these “menschadictorians”
  4. Created the Charger Challenger Competition between teams that is composed of a combination of Minute-To-Win-It games and a Jeopardy competition. The competition is held every 9 weeks and is an exciting event for students and teachers alike.  Students must have a “C” or better and be “referral free” to compete.  A traveling trophy is held by the winning team and a hallway wall records the winning team.
  5. We also created our Tri-Charger Cup competition that awards points on a system “loosely” based on the houses in Harry Potter. Students earn points by getting involved in extracurriculars and teams.  They also earn points by getting on the honor and high honor rolls.  Every good thing earns points and bad choices can take away points.”

I remember the day that Tony won our district’s Teacher of the Year.  The pride that I felt was akin of a father watching his son homer in Game 7 of the World Series to win an extra inning game.  I jumped up so fast that I pulled a muscle in my back.

So, my friend “thank you”; if I teach more than 5 more years it will be because of how much I value our friendship and working relationship.

Staff - Tecumseh 2009 - Sturgeon Napping with Crown