Two weeks ago, I was in our library, trying to work my way through
a rather daunting stack of student essays. During a heavy sigh/reach-for-the-sky-stretch
(relieves stress), I glanced over a squat bookshelf that holds some of our
periodicals and saw Kurt Sicke tutoring a new tenth grader named Zoe. She had
come to us late in the quarter and was notoriously shy, almost to the point of
paralysis. Her math teacher swore she heard her vomiting behind a portable, but
I don’t go in for idle gossip unless I think someone has a gun or large
quantities of drugs with intent to sell or distribute. This philosophy has
served me well in my twenty plus years here at Red Rock (Go Rockers!) except
for one or two times where I may have forced an unnecessary lockdown. Given all
the invisible lives saved, I’ll take that percentage any day. Some of the
younger “hipster” teachers (or hipsteachers as I call them) turn a blind eye to
pretty much everything these days—iPods, cell phones, serial hair dyeing—not
understanding that all these what I call “flavors of the month” distract from
our mission as educators.
Close enough to overhear their conversation, I marveled at the way Kurt both engaged Zoe by asking about her hobbies outside of school (Facebook, texting, some show called My Cat From Hell) and carefully explained the mathematical concepts that eluded her. After a few minutes, Zoe smiled and asked a question about a rumor she’d heard about Kurt and a party that included something about flips or flipping it. I couldn’t make it out exactly since I did my sigh/stretch again. Kurt laughed pretty hard at Zoe’s probing and shook his head repeatedly in the no position, so I didn’t feel the need to investigate. This small bonding moment struck me so later that day, I asked Kurt’s advisor, Mark “MBA” Bossel-Anderson, about his role as a tutor. (Note: they call Mark MBA because of his initials and the fact that he got his MBA online a few years ago).
“I send everyone to Kurt,” MBA said, laughing. “I may have overbooked him actually.” MBA said that Kurt has this way of merging scholarship and good will that many kids find helpful, especially in math and science. “He can explain pretty difficult concepts in ways they understand,” MBA continued. “Sometimes better than their own math teachers.” I agree with MBA about Kurt, but I feel compelled to mention that after getting his MBA from the University of Phoenix, MBA started day trading. I don’t usually pay attention to what teachers do on their own time (unless it’s illegal like cockfighting), but I draw the line on activities that impede teaching. MBA’s trading made its way into his classroom when he created a “real world scenario” and had his AP students research stocks that MBA was interested in buying. Of course, the kids never complain if they are doing something that some people call “fun” yet the parents really let the school have it when they got the AP scores back. Turns out that none of the questions on the text asked for future casting on some stock that makes camera lenses for satellites.
MBA has been a lot more clandestine about his trading but if you have half a brain (you’d be surprised about what educators miss, hello?) you can see that MBA is still in the thick of it. He’s had to downsize his car twice (Saab>new Corolla> used Accord) and wears the same cardigan every Friday. He packs his lunch instead of buying (not by choice because it’s healthier or gluten-free like some of us) and has switched from lattes to brewed for staff meetings. Then there’s Kurt Sicke. MBA has farmed out a lot of his teaching to Kurt and it shows. I’ve seen Kurt do many lessons on the board for MBA’s Algebra I students while MBA sits hunched over his computer. At first, I thought maybe I was overestimating Kurt’s influence in the classroom, so I monitored MBA’s fifth period every day for a week. I hired a sub and took notes. Sure enough, Kurt taught every lesson. Then, during lunch, student activity period, after school, I saw Kurt working with MBA’s students. To me, Kurt looked pretty exhausted but when I asked him how he was doing, he wouldn’t let on. That’s the thing with teens, they’re loyal to a fault. I tried calling the Sicke home, but I couldn’t reveal exactly what was going on since it was about a colleague, so I beat around the bush. Mrs. Sicke answered but soon put Mr. Sicke on the phone who said they were pretty busy so could I please state my case? I said it was just a courtesy call, something they didn’t seem to appreciate at all. I thought about dropping by since their home’s not far from my townhouse but then decided against it. Sadly, a lot of parents have grown accustomed to an uncaring public school system machine, so they don’t even know how to react to a caring teacher. It’s a shame really.
As you can see from his resume, Kurt is quite the math and science whiz. He even spent some of his time off at the University of Denver engineer camp where he earned first place in the knowledge competition. Even though he was fully capable of teaching Algebra I in addition to his coursework and athletic commitments (not sure about church), I thought it was unfair so I presented my evidence to Principal Havenworth who suspended MBA for the rest of the term (with pay!). Kurt became very cross with me, but I told him that threatening a teacher with violence was not advisable and that I did it for his own good. What I didn’t say is that I received a formal reprimand for photographing a colleague, students, and school property without express permission from all parties involved. I’d withheld the audio tapes in case I needed further proof, so they never heard those (whew!). Kurt doesn’t know I’m writing this letter. Melanie Listfenstel from college counseling asked me to since she knows how much I care about Kurt. She also was in a bind because she was starting personal leave due to a problem with her partner’s endocrine system.
It is my great honor to write this letter in support of this most qualified candidate.
Do your work and I will know you (Emerson),
Richard Fulton Winter
1998 Arizona Junior Humanities Excellence in Teaching Award—Honorable Mention
Class Sponsor of the Alternate Student CouncilAuthor of The Bard’s Gentle Graces (poetry chapbook)