Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?
My most inspirational colleague is… wow… I feel like if I name a name, then I’m excluding all the other great colleagues that have inspired me. I also have so many great people to choose from. But here goes…
Susan Martens: Susan started out teaching in a small town in Nebraska just as I did. We both joined the Nebraska Writing Project at about the same time, 2002ish. She and I brought our students together using an online discussion board and held two actual meetings between these students at Mahoney State Park (you can read about the project here). We read Lord of the Flies with our students and had them collaborate via a message board to create products to share. What a monumental undertaking, but at the time, it was just good clean fun.
Susan was able to parlay this online discussion into a launching pad to publication, and ultimately her Ph.D. She is now a professor at Missouri Western in St. Joseph, MO. She fully realized her dream of becoming a doctor and heading her own writing project site.
Susan and I were also together on our first Writing Marathon at a technology retreat with the National Writing Project. I loved the marathon. We walked through the paths in the wilderness in Nebraska City together, writing and sharing with one another. It was a wonderful experience. However, Susan saw this experience as an opportunity. She saw the potential for writing projects at our own writing project site, and she soon implemented them into our annual meetings and retreats.
She has a special ability to see the potential in her students and colleagues and to push them in the right direction. Sometimes, she will take an unwilling colleague under her wing (like me) and drag him pushing and screaming into the spotlight. It is because of her that I have traveled to national conventions and will be attending this year’s NCTE convention as a co-presenter with her on the “Writing in the Landscape to Craft Stories of Knowing: The Writing Marathon”. It is also because of her that I traveled to New Orleans this summer to partake in the mother of all marathons, the New Orleans Writing Marathon.
So Dr. Susan Martens has been an amazing influence and inspiration for me as a teacher and lover of learning over the past decade. Her continued support, patience, and passion drive me to be a better teacher, writer and human being.
I realize that I have indeed chosen one colleague despite the fact that I had, in my mind, chosen several to praise. So a quick list of runners-up:
April Lambert: Hard working composition teacher at Westside. Always willing to give advice and listen.
Ray Bentzen: Most organized and supportive administrator I’ve ever had from Ashland-Greenwood High School.
Honorable mention goes to all the people I have remembered and forgotten over the years.