A recent encounter with a co-worker made me think of a one of the many great teachers I have had the great pleasure of learning from. His name was Mike Wasilco and I had him in the eleventh grade Physiology and Anatomy, and Qualitative Analysis, then again in the twelfth grade for Physics.
These should have been hard classes, but he had such a great teaching style there was never a semester that I didn’t score an “A” in those classes and I actually still retain some of the knowledge. (Yep, I’m the only person I know who can name all the bones in the body.)
His tests were all handwritten and copied on the ditto maker giving it that lovely purple print, sticky feel, and slightly sweet smell. And he used the names of the students in the story problems. And I fondly, if not oddly, remember him bringing in sheep eyes from his farm for us to dissect and learn about vision.
Not long ago my mother found the blueprint I drafted for the egg drop contest. My egg broke on impact, but he said he could tell from my design that I was headed in the right direction. Such encouragement.
He was funny and always in good spirits. You could always see his smile despite his massive beard. Mr. Wasilco was more than cool, he was awesome.
One day, a recruiter came from a small college in the UP (that’s Upper Peninsula for everyone outside the Midwest). He came in and did his best to give us the old razzle, dazzle, racing back and forth, flailing his arms, and nodding enthusiastically at facts we were supposed to be impressed by.
“And in the last 3 years, our minority student population is up to almost 4%.. and it’s growing!!!”
Mmkay. Well, congratulations, we guess. We were polite but the longer he went on, the more giggling you could hear.
“Don’t let anyone tell you we’re not a welcoming environment to everyone, because we are. We believe in diversity at [4%-Minority-Population-School-in-the-UP] and our goal is to make sure you know that and gives us a try!” he smiled looking a bit like Joel Osteen, but not nearly as sincere.
And then Mr. Wasilco became even more awesome than he had always been:
“You do realize this is an Honors class right? College prep, everyone maintains a 3.5 or better so you need to speak about what your school offers academically. I’m surprised your diversity training doesn’t teach you about stereotyping kids because of what they look like or where they go to high school.”
We all turned our attention back to our distinguished guess who was noticeably flustered at this point and smiled, waited.
“So what does your school offer to brilliant minds?” Mr. Wasilco leaned forward on the large sink/desk/workstation he often taught from.
“Uh, well. I have brochures…” I would have felt bad for the guy, but another great teacher of mine, Bernard Perzyk would never have sent any of us to give a speech some place without proper preparation. Oh so unprofessional.
Mr. Wasilco glanced around the room at us and shook his head before rescuing us all. “Hmm, well, I think maybe you’re done here. Thanks for dropping by. That was… enlightening.” Mr. Wasilco was kind enough to walk the school rep to the door before he helpfully shoved him out of it.
We never did get those brochures.
And we never forgot what a great teacher Mike Wasilco was, not just for the education he provided, but for the awesome way he provided it.
Stuck in my head these days: Jay-Z "Thank You" and K'Naan "Voices in My Head"