By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
Clack. Clack. Clack. That’s the sound of the stapler. It’s nearly 11 at night and it’s still clacking. My wife, a first-grade teacher in Fort Lauderdale, is stapling a booklet for tomorrow’s lesson. Clack.
Most of us know that teachers are generally undervalued and overworked. What spouses of teachers know is just how overworked. Sure there’s that summer-long vacation, but that affords little solace when the stapler’s clacking late on a school night. But it’s not about the clack, really. It’s about the click – when it all clicks inside the mind and heart of the student. When the teacher achieves that sweet nirvana of connection. When the seeds of success start to sprout – in both of them.
Here then is a little bouquet of successes – an assortment of local teachers who connected with students in special ways, and the students whose blossoming has made their teachers’ late nights seem all the more worthwhile.
Cardinal Gibbons High School, 2900
NE 47th St., Fort Lauderdale, cghsfl.org
Susan Quailey, chemistry and environmental science, 10 years on staff.
Amanda Morris, class of 2014.
Key Club, an international service club moderated by Quailey and sponsored by the Kiwanis, is one of the biggest clubs at Cardinal Gibbons and one of the state’s top three. Not only was Amanda president of the school’s club, but she was also chosen as the top president of all the Key Clubs in Broward County. Now a junior and business marketing major at the University of South Florida, Amanda is still service-minded. This past Christmas, she organized a donation of about 200 toys to a Salvation Army assistance program.
I owe a lot of my success to Mrs. Quailey. Her room was always a home away from home where I could do homework or just hang out and talk. Her words are always playing in my head. Through the Key Club and the guidance of Mrs. Quailey, I organized and spearheaded service projects. There was one, a Christmas Bike Drive, that I created and ran where students donated money or bikes for needy kids. One Saturday, Mrs. Quailey drove to the store and bought the bikes. This really stood out to me. She had no responsibility for doing it but wanted to help out.
Amanda was in my classes. I saw in her the quality of leadership and I nurtured it. In fact, I asked Amanda to be president of Key Club. She would continually talk to me about how she could improve herself. I really saw her grow into a fine young woman who I know someday will lead a business or even be in politics.
NSU University School, 3375 SW 75th Ave.,
Fort Lauderdale, uschool.nova.edu
Erik Weidenboerner, honors and advanced robotics, eight years on staff.
Jeremy Wong, 12th grade.
Jeremy is captain of the robotics team and, his teacher says, probably one of the best builders he’s ever had – from the first [robotic] tank he built in class to being part of the first team in school history to win the state championship and go undefeated.
I joined the robotics team in 10th grade. I like the creative freedom that robotics provides. Mr. W has taught me the building blocks of working with VEX Robotics and he has provided me with a space to grow and thrive in. You will not find a mentor that cares about his students’ growth and success as Mr. W.
Jeremy enrolled in my honors robotics class when he was a freshman. I was his head coach, his teacher, his mentor. He has humility and a very strong work ethic. He seeks perfection. I think I’ll fail him so I won’t have to lose him next year. Seriously, it will be difficult to fill his shoes.
St. Mark’s Episcopal School, 1750 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, saintmarks.com
Marie Cowley, music/choir and director of the
spring musical, six years on staff.
Elizabeth Bedley, class of 2013.
Elizabeth caught the acting bug early. Sitting in on her sister’s rehearsals, she couldn’t wait until third grade to follow in her footsteps. She ultimately participated in every play at St. Mark’s until the personal high note of her final show as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Following starring roles in such Cardinal Gibbons High School productions as Seussical! and The Drowsy Chaperone, Elizabeth has the Broadway stage in her sights. She hopes to pursue a degree in musical theater at her ‘dream school,’ NYU, where she attended a musical theatre program last summer. This month she will learn the result of her admissions audition there last month.
Theater allows me to truly be myself even though the words aren’t mine. When I’m onstage, there is something paradoxically real and alive about my temporary world of fiction. There’s a part of me in every role I portray because I’m allowed to take that character’s scenarios and reflect my perspective into those performances. Mrs. Cowley has given me a multitude of opportunities to perform and excel to my full potential. She has continuously challenged me with leading roles such as Wendy in Peter Pan and Dorothy. I think it’s really important, especially in this business, that you are surrounded by supportive people who want nothing but the best for you and Mrs. Cowley surely provides this.
When I was hired at St. Mark’s, Elizabeth was a seventh-grader and already very involved in the music program. She also sang in my choir class and starred in our annual spring musical. Elizabeth consistently strived for musical excellence. Even in middle school, she was always determined to be the best. She would practice on her own time and always ask me how she could make her singing or acting better, and it showed in all of her performances. I would like to think I instilled in her the confidence she needed to be motivated to major in musical theater at the university level. Liz wrote to me when she graduated that I taught her not only about music, but also about how to be herself. She said that she looked up to me as a person, and that warmed my heart. Statements like those are part of what makes teaching so great.