Teacher Recommendation for Carl Suplanski
Last week in my ninth grade writing workshop, two fairly remarkable things happened. Carl Suplanski pulled a chair up alongside a rather reluctant freshman named Chloe and worked through her thesis on competition in A Separate Piece, revising the idea slowly, helping Chloe better articulate her ideas. The type of patience and care Carl showed Chloe was enough to make my day as a molder of young minds. However, the next thing Carl did reminded me why I admired him so much as both a student and a young man. “I wish we had this workshop when I was in ninth grade,” he said, before he thanked me and shuffled off to his next class. What I find so amazing about that comment is that Carl is still hungry to learn, and he’s sure not afraid to show it. No sir. Even though I’m no longer his English teacher (sigh), Carl still wants to chat about books he’s reading and essays he’s working on for his senior teacher, Ms. Peters-Miller-Saltzman. Sometimes, Carl confides in me about his dad’s “battle with the bottle” and there’s been more than a few nights where he’s had to pick his father up from office parties because the man can barely stand up. I mean, come on! Oddly, I don’t hear a lot about the mother. I think he might have said something about volunteer work at the dog and cat hospital, but I can’t be sure on that so please don’t quote me on that bit of intel. Either way, Carl’s honest approach to the world and his generosity of spirit are qualities that I want in a teaching assistant even more than I want half-and-half in my java. Sadly, I do not see Carl in action on a daily basis anymore, yet I still think of him as I teach the new crop of juniors (who are a handful to say the least but I’ll whip them into shape before I send them up the ivory tower).
I was lucky enough to have had Carl in my first period American Literature course last year. Teaching juniors at 8 am is no picnic (and I’ve been away from the picnic for too long, ha!), yet Carl was the catalyst who often turned zombies into scholars. I can still see Carl asking questions about grace in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor or leading an outstanding discussion of how the character Vardaman digested the idea of death in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. For some reason I can’t put my finger on, the students are pretty hard on the character of young Vardaman. They don’t really understand the idea of “simple” anymore. Not here at RRHS and not in a good way. They say cruel things, calling him “dumbass” and “retard” or just “tard.” Hopper, a kid who moved here from Encinitas used to use the word “retardando”, but he didn’t last long. Some kids just refuse to engage Vardaman as a meaningful character whatsoever. Ophelia, too, but that’s a whole other sad story altogether. Carl is a gifted orator, not only because he is so kind and friendly or smart. Moreover, Carl has that curiosity about the world that is very hard to teach, especially to this generation. For Carl, it comes naturally on the field, in the pool, in an office or in the classroom. So much so that he volunteered over and over to be the class leader when I desperately needed one. Each year, during our discussion on The Crucible, I put the students in a “fishbowl”— two or three kids in the middle of the classroom. The rest of the class watches and take notes on what these three discuss, and then the whole group joins in. As you might expect, most of the students don’t love such scrutiny, yet Carl volunteered to participate when a peer fell “ill.” I use quotations because this so-called kid had a so-called miraculous recovery straight out of Lourdes after first period and showed up in her dig phot class if you can believe that. When I confronted her about her great healing after assembly, she said she felt ill during the night but that extra hour of sleep helped. There wasn’t much I could do. I checked with the front office and her absence was “excused” (I know, sorry, more quotation marks) by her parents. It gets worse. I learned later that this girl who will remain anonymous for the purpose of this letter but you could probably tell just by looking at her if you came to my first period class (if she showed up on time) actually went to some sort of rave at a casino sixty miles away the night before. Right? This bacchanal 2.0 is called a “glow” (sorry) and from what I heard from one of her peers, you wear all white and the glowers or whatever fire paint and glitter all over you as you crazy dance to electronic music. All night. And the parents signed off on all this crazyness. Crazy, right? Even though Carl did not prepare specifically to be in the bowl, he performed as if he knew he’d be called upon. His comments were both smart and open to the others working with him. I loved watching him work.
As I said in my opening, Carl
is a natural teacher. Not only is he my teaching assistant this year, he was my
community service leader two years ago. Red Rock High School has a regionally
recognized commitment to community service and my specific project “Lending a
Hand to our Grand (Parents)” has been formally recognized by the Red Rock
Community Foundation at a dessert reception. Carl was a big part of that award
(and the reception! Yum!). Each week, he would help me train other high
schoolers to interact successfully with the elderly at The Elder Shelter
Nursing Home and Retirement Community (I know, what a mouthful!). He helped me
teach a group of squirrelly teenagers the do’s (ask questions, nod along) and
don’ts (wear sunglasses, make sound effects, poke) in working with our national
treasures. Even the nursing home supervisor we worked with, Ms. Closton, said
that Carl was a natural and that she’d be lucky to have him as her assistant
(especially at the rate he was getting paid. Ha!). Carl kept all students on
task and thrice supervised our group by himself (with Ms Closton’s help) when I
was unable to attend because of a medical condition in my foot area. Working
with Carl was almost like working with a diligent college student. That’s why
he’s one of our finest scholar-athletes, President of the Alternate Student
Council, captain of the diving team, and all the other striking ways he spends
his time helping RRHS and the larger Red Rock community. If you pass up this
kid, you might have dementia and after his time at The Elder Shelter, it would
be too bad that Carl wouldn’t be there to help you. He’d bring only the best
qualities to your college community.
It is my great honor to write this letter in support of this most qualified candidate.
Richard Fulton Winter
1998 Arizona Junior Humanities Excellence in Teaching Award—Honorable Mention
Class Sponsor of the Alternate Student Council
Author of The Bard’s Gentle Graces (poetry chapbook)