On Tuesday, April 9, Howell High School We the People and AP U.S Government teacher, Mr. Mark Oglesby, attended the Daughters of the American Revolution of Michigan Award (DAR) ceremony in Lansing at the Kellogg Center to claim his 2013 Outstanding American History Teacher award.
It is stated on their website that the DAR, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children. It is one of their priorities to recognize and honor those who do the same.
Mr. Oglesby was nominated by the Philip Livingston Chapter of the DAR, and was selected by the state. The award recognizes the values that certain teachers have in patriotism, service, and passion of history.
“It’s an honor,” Mr. Oglesby said. “The DAR has been around a long time…and it’s great what they do. We are losing our history. Patriotism is very important.”
At the ceremony, he prepared a speech. It included him thanking DAR, Howell Public Schools, his wife, his high school English teacher, Ms. Mel Shields, his father Burnie, and the two students who nominated him, Gabe Montesanti and Claire Kwan.
At first, this outstanding history teacher was not aware that the award even existed. He was nominated by two of his former students who believed in him. Once he received a phone call from Sue Reifert, a member of the Phillip Livingston Chapter, he could not have been more grateful in knowing what this foundation is all about.
“I have to be honest; I did not know there was such an award,” Mr. Oglesby said in his speech at the ceremony. “So when I received a phone call from Sue Reifert, while sitting in an airplane, coming back from Normandy and a trip with my Granddad, I was caught off guard. The entire flight home I still wasn’t sure what Sue was asking me. When I got home and called her back, I realized she was telling me a couple of students had written letters for me for this award.”
Mr. Oglesby claims that he does not know exactly why he was eligible for the award, but one reason could be because of his intense passion and love for his We The People Constitutional Law program. He has been teaching and leading this class for the 11 years that he has been at Howell. This year has been the first time the class won state finals and had the opportunity to go to Nationals. He is incredibly proud of his students, and it is them that he thanked.
When Mr. Oglesby started his “thank you’s,” he reflected back on what makes him who he is and his Faith that kept him going.
“I want to start by acknowledging something that was important to most of our Founders and those that participated in the American Revolution – Faith. My Faith is very important to me. I thank God that I have been blessed to have a career that I love. I believe I am doing what God intended for me. Through my reading of the Bible, I have tried to demonstrate the caring and commitment that Jesus showed.”
He also thanked HHS principal, Mr. Jason Schrock, and Superintendent Ron Wilson, who attended the ceremony that day. It was because of them that Mr. Oglesby got the opportunity to “impact on students’ lives.”
Mr. Schrock said afterwards, “I was there to support his award. I’m glad I did; it was very moving.”
By seeing how humble Mr. Oglesby is, it is clear that, despite his deep appreciation for the award, it is hardly compared to what he is truly passionate about.
“The adage, ‘Children are our future’, is true….I have hopefully instilled in my students a love of history, a desire for lifelong learning, and a respect and caring for our country,” Mr. Oglesby announced at the end of his speech. “I believe these things must be instilled in our students if we are to have the best future possible.”
On his We The People website, Mr. Oglesby expresses his feelings grateful he is to have the program, and teaching in general, in his life.
“I am blessed to be a teacher. I truly love what I do,” he wrote online. “I thank God for giving me the ability to teach and the opportunity to make a positive impact on students’ lives. I am thankful I found the We The People… program to assist me in that endeavor. Take care and make wise decisions with the only life you have.
Every year, a spirit award is given at Howell High School for the teacher who shows the most spirit. This past fall during the Homecoming pep assembly, one of those teachers was Ms. Linda Hart. Mr. Rod Bushey was also chosen.
“I was totally shocked and had no idea it was going to happen,” Ms. Hart said.
Ms. Hart is a teacher of Computer Fundamentals and Life Skills and has been teaching for about twelve years. Ever since she was a little girl she always dreamed of pursuing a career in teaching.
“I enjoyed playing school as a kid and I just always knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” Hart said with a smile.
Hart was born in Mississippi and lived there for a span of eight years. She then moved to Dearborn Heights, Michigan with her family, where she practically grew up with her older brother and two sisters.
Attending Rouchsbouid Heights High School in Dearborn, Ms. Hart was fully involved in many activities, playing softball and volleyball during her high school years. Playing two sports didn’t stop her from also being in many different clubs including the Kiwanis International High School program, an organization in which the students participated in community service, such as assisting at nursing homes. She was also highly involved in Co-Op. Graduating from this school, Ms. Hart enrolled in Madonna University where she planned on fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher. She gained her undergrad in English and elementary education and a master’s degree in learning disabilities.
From then on, teaching became her true passion. It is always shown in her classroom, with a warm and cheerful environment. She will find any teaching method to give her students a full learning experience here, and she exemplifies it by getting them involved in the community.
One year, they did a fundraiser for Gleaners Food Bank and even had the opportunity to work there. Not only that but she helps them do bake sales to raise money. They also sold candy bouquets for Valentine’s Day.
Her main goal behind all these activities is to teach her students about life skills and help them set goals for their future. She does this by using a positive attitude and never giving up on her students.
“I love to watch my students grow and see all the progress they have made.”
And what helps her keep a positive attitude is not only her students but her family as well. They are her world. Ms. Hart has been married to her husband Tony for eighteen years and has three sons, Christian, Noah, and Griffin.
Even though family keeps her spirits up, she has hobbies of her own that give her amusement. Ms. Hart is a major fan of plays and has attended more than she can count. She also still plays softball and volleyball in her free time. The most interesting hobby she cherishes is beading.
With a smile on her face, Ms. Hart lives day by day in hopes of enriching many students’ lives and she adores every moment of it. Even if she has to spend some of this time going back to watch over misbehaved students in detention, at least she is in a school that she loves.
“I enjoy my job. I like to help people and be creative.”
At Howell High School, wherever you look, you’ll most likely see one of the Schrock brothers: Jason, an assistant principal, is usually found in his office helping students with their classes; or Eric, a Reading Mentor usually found in his office helping students with reading strategies. Although both Schrocks are easy to find, they can also be seen around the school talking with students. Unlike most, these brothers have more similarities than differences.
These Schrocks both said their growing up years were great and full of excitement.
“Our dad was a drill sergeant in the service, and is still working as a P.E. teacher and an athletic director, and our mom was a nurse, so we had the perfect mix of structure and nurture. Everything was a learning experience, but we always had each others’ back,” Jason describes.
In the Schrock family, there are three brothers and one sister. Jason is the second to the eldest, and Eric is the youngest brother.
“Our home life was a lot of fun! We spent a lot of time outside and we were all into sports. I was the most athletic though. Jason was more of the brains, and Ryan, the oldest, was more artistic. I think I remember Jason breaking my arm while wrestling though! Better check with him so that I have it right,” Eric mentions with a laugh.
The brothers agreed that their relationship growing up could be described as being best friends.
“I mimicked both my brothers. Ryan was good moral support but Jason was a mentor for me. He helped me with college, and if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be a teacher,” says Eric.
The brothers’ relationship now is better than ever and they couldn’t be closer.
“[Eric] was the best man at my wedding; he is one of my best friends. We work hard together and we play hard together, and it has been like that ever since we were kids,” Jason says.
Jason and Eric didn’t always work together. Jason originally taught math at Howell High School for seven years. He then went back to school, achieved his master’s in administration in 2007, applied for an administrative position at HHS, and became an assistant principal. Eric has been in the Howell school district for six years and started out being a physical education teacher at Southwest Elementary School. He is currently in his first year at the high school but he says having his brother as one of his bosses isn’t a bad thing.
“[Working at the high school] is better than I thought. Jason is a good boss and he is the first person I come to for help. He pushes me to be better, but I am comfortable to make mistakes,” Eric explains.
These Schrock brothers not only have goals for themselves, but also goals for each other.
“I want to be a good example for my four kids and that no matter where I am or what I am doing, to always live by the saying, ‘love God, love people.’ Eric spends his summers living in Alaska working on a boat [as a fisherman]. I really want him to earn his captain’s license so he can finally drive his boat that he has been working so hard on,” Jason says.
Each of the three Schrock brothers has been a disc jockey.
“One of my goals is to have my DJ business thrive. I also want to be an effective teacher and inspire others. I want Jason to be successful at everything he does but to never forget to have fun,” Eric explains.
Like most siblings, Jason and Eric have things about each other that the other one admires. But unlike most siblings, they aren’t afraid to share them.
“I admire everything about him. He’s honest, respectful, understanding, he never judges people, and he has a high moral standard,” Eric says.
“The thing I admire most about Eric is that he has a heart for people. He can make a relationship with everyone, and he is always genuine about it. He wants to see everyone do their best,” Jason says.
Jason and Eric Schrock have very different jobs at HHS, but one similarity that they will always share in the workplace is their willingness to help anyone in need.
Michelle Charron-Witt is a hometown girl. Living in Howell since she was 11 years old, Charron-Witt was also educated in Michigan. After graduating from Howell High School, she received her bachelor’s degree at Central Michigan University, and a master’s degree in special education at Eastern Michigan University.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” says Ms. Charron-Witt, “I went into special education because I thought it would be interesting.”
Ms. Charron-Witt has worked for Howell Schools since 1989, through the Livingston Educational Service Agency, and taught in one of the first LESA special education classrooms in Howell High School. When she first started she worked with children with Severe Emotional Impairment. As she has progressed in her career, her main focus became autism. Autism is a disorder that affects individuals through deficits in social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors and interests.
“Autism has driven my career,” says Ms. Charron-Witt.
She is now working for the Livingston Education Service Agency as a program consultant and is involved with multiple programs. Currently she is working on a grant called Project Impact, to help parents develop skills to teach their children with autism. Ms. Charron-Witt is also working with a college transition program. This helps young adults adapt from high school into college.
“It’s the best job ever because it’s always changing,” says Ms. Charron-Witt, “the kids are fun and the staff is so dedicated.”
Fun, enthusiastic, well-liked, and forever positive, these are the first things that come to the minds of students of one Howell High School Spanish teacher.
Mrs. Marci Adams fell in love with the Spanish language when she was a freshman in high school; therefore, she ended up taking Spanish all four years. As Adams progressed into college, she chose Spanish as her focus because it captured the fun and exciting part of school. It just came to her naturally.
Attending Wayne State University, Adams procured a bachelors degree in liberal arts, majoring in Spanish and a minor in English. She then went on to obtain a master’s degree in the art of teaching. Adams decided on teaching right before she had children herself.
“I want to make a difference in someone’s life, a kid like me. I want to be the teacher I never had,” Mrs. Adams reflected.
Mrs. Adams grew up with her single mother who was a small business owner. “I lived in south Redford, four houses away from the express- way,” Adams said with a slight chuckle. Adams also attended a Catholic school run by nuns.
Since she had a single mother, Mrs. Adam learned to be self sufficient, a hard worker, and not dependent on anyone.
Growing up the way she did had a strong influence on the kind of person she is today.
Family is a huge part of Mrs. Adams’ life. She has been married to her husband, John Adams, for thirteen years. Together they have two daughters, Madelyn, who is in sixth grade attending Highlander Way Middle School, and Ava who has just started second grade this year.
Within Adams’ family, they enjoy the company of their beloved pets. They have a Newphanland named Diesel, two guinea pigs, and a rabbit named Chloe, which is also the class pet. “I love animals,” she announced.
On arriving to Howell High School as one of her first jobs, Mrs. Adams was a student teacher under Mrs. Monica Thacker. “She is innovative and is always raising the bar for herself and her students. Her creative and energetic attitude makes learning Spanish fun,” notes Thacker. Mrs. Adams has currently been teaching for eight years at HHS.
Every style of teaching is unique to each teacher. One would say that Adams’ style is entertaining. Since most kids are kinesthetic learners, she tries to incorporate as much hands-on lessons as possible. From singing songs, making videos, and playing Simon Says, Mrs. Adams’ students are never bored. On top of all that, to keep her class motivated, this teacher remains positive even in the hardest times.
Sense of humor and sarcasm accompanies Mrs. Adams throughout the day. “When I was younger I wanted to be a comedian, now this is my stage,” she said pointing to the front of her vibrant classroom. Playing guitar and performing her monkey-squirrel noise, Mrs. Adams always keep things interesting.
“I am not afraid to have fun with a kid. You have to learn to laugh at yourself,” Mrs. Adams said.
What do you get when you combine butter, flour, milk, eggs, sugar, an entire cafeteria of students, and one of their teachers? The Howell High School Teacher Pancake fundraiser, evidently.
The event, which occurred on April 1st – April Fool’s Day, conveniently enough, took place in the Howell High School Freshman Campus cafeteria, jam-packed with students eager to see their teachers get doused in breakfast ingredients. Students stood on chairs and clambered around tables while Mr. Christopher Andrews, dressed for the occasion in goggles and a large trash bag, was made into a ‘human pancake’. At its conclusion, Mr. Andrews (the history teacher who had the most money raised in his bucket) was thoroughly drenched in powder, yolk, and other pancake ingredients.
“It was super sweet and fun!” he said.
“Watching [Mr. Andrews] get ‘pancaked’ was hilariously entertaining,” agreed Ms. Cassie Massolia, a Learning Specialist teacher.
Undoubtedly, both an interesting if somewhat strange fundraising opportunity, the idea behind the Teacher Pancake event came into fruition via the freshman class student council. Its purpose was to boost school spirit in the students as well as the staff members, and, of course, to raise money for STUCO. Money collection spanned the two weeks of lunches prior to Spring Break. The lunch that raised the most money – A lunch – were witnesses to the ‘pancaking’. In the end, this unorthodox fundraiser was a success by all accounts: it raised $200 and gave those who witnessed its unfolding a nourishing mental image they won’t soon forget.
No human is perfect. No teacher is perfect. However, there are a few people who embody or at least approach the ideal of their profession. Mary Jane Shafto is one of those few people.
One could get this idea simply upon meeting her. With a warm smile, a Spirit Week t-shirt, and her curly blond hair pulled back neatly, she exudes a fun and welcoming air even when she is recovering from a cold. Her mood and personality match the colorful mural that adorns her classroom walls as she takes a seat at one of the desks.
For a person who is so good at her job, it wasn’t something that Ms. Shafto had always planned on doing. She originally went to Oakland University to get her degree in English and later transferred to MSU, where she took mostly literature classes as well as getting a minor in general science. It was here that she decided to go into teaching. “I love to study English, and so teaching seemed like a natural choice,” she articulated. Her favorite thing about teaching is something that may come as a surprise: teenagers.
With their biting wit and overall rebelliousness, teaching teenagers seems like it would be a downright frightening aspect to most in the field of education. “I love to work with teenagers,” Ms. Shafto says honestly. “They always make me laugh.” The desire to learn in her students inspires her, as does the hard work and dedication of friends and colleagues.
She has a teenager of her own, a son named Nate who is a freshman at Milford High School. Other members of her family include her husband, who she has been married to for 17 years, and another son named Jon, who is currently in the 6th grade. “We have a lot of fun together,” she says of her family, grinning at the memories. Some of the fun activities they like to do include traveling, playing golf, and just goofing around in general.
In her own spare time, Ms. Shafto likes scrap-booking and gardening, as well as reading and writing — “The obvious English teacher response,” she quips good-naturedly. Although she didn’t have much time for reading for pleasure over the summer, one book she enjoyed was Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott, which she’d recommend to English teachers since it’s about writing. Also over the summer, she finished a writing program at MSU which certified her as a National Writing Consultant.
She values family, being a good teacher, honesty and open-mindedness, which is evidenced by her previous stint as the head of Diversity Club. “I have always been concerned about equality in education and society as a whole,” Ms. Shafto explained. She and Ms. Hosner advised the group for 2 years, but Ms. Shafto stepped down this year due to prior obligations to teach and develop the curriculum for a new class called “Strategic Literacy”.
“I love teaching high school students and can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says, and neither can her students.
Being the Howell varsity football strength and conditioning coach and a physical education teacher, Mr. Ryan Ash spends most of his days helping students achieve athletic and physical success.
Mr. Ash attended Fowlerville High School, only a short drive from Howell. He played varsity baseball, basketball, and football, and went on to play at the collegiate level for Albion University.
Out of high school, Mr. Ash studied biology and majored in chemistry at Albion University and Michigan Tech University, and eventually went on to get his master’s degree in Physical Education at Eastern Michigan University.
Mr. Ash has coached football at Howell High School for 12 years, starting at the freshman level, and worked his way up through junior varsity. When Mr. Aaron Metz was hired as head coach for Howell football, Mr. Ash moved up as strength and conditioning coach. He also works as quarterback and defensive back coach.
“The interaction with players,” Ben Theisen, junior safety, says is Mr. Ash’s best quality. “He is always there to explain things and give advice.”
The varsity football strength coach separates himself as a superior coach by attending strength and conditioning conventions all around the nation in order to keep learning about the field he is in. Mr. Ash puts together months of off-season plans for the upcoming football team starting in January, stretching all the way until two-a-days beginning in August.
“Coaching for Howell has been a good thing for me. Under Coach Metz I have learned to be a better coach, and make sure everything I do results in something positive for our team,” said Coach Ash.
In order to set his team up for success, he stresses certain health factors that help Howell’s athletes stay healthy. Last season, Mr. Ash made his team exercise their necks every time they lifted in order to lessen the risk of injuries to the neck, and concussions.
“He is always serious about what he is doing,” varsity quarterback Greg Cauley says. “He takes time outside the weight room and outside the football field to be the best coach he can be.”
Outside of sports and teaching at Howell High School, Mr. Ash spends his time with his family including his wife, and two children, Leah and Nathan.
Most students find it very hard to imagine that teachers have lives outside of school. It can be very rare to see a teacher out and about in normal life, but with Mr. Mark Oglesby being involved in many outside activities and putting a lot of extra time into them, seeing him in normal life does not seem so strange.
Currently Mr. Oglesby coaches boys’ and girls’ tennis, teaches We the People (among other social studies classes), and advises the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Putting in a lot of time at school and at home, Mr. Oglesby feels it is very important to pay equal attention to all the commitments he takes on and to improve the programs he is involved in, noting that he has been spending more time improving his AP U.S. Government and Politics class lately.
Being involved in sports and other extracurricular activities is a way for Mr. Oglesby to better his teaching and he seems to be very dedicated to that goal as he has coached tennis for 17 years; advised the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for three; and started teaching We the People back in 1995 in Washington.
“Teaching is my priority but it is important to build relationships with students,” Mr. Oglesby said.
Not only does Mr. Oglesby coach tennis but he also used to coach baseball, which he coached for 11 years, and volleyball. His dedication to doing anything to help his students and himself grow seems endless. In fact, Mr. Oglesby started the We the People class in Washington.
“I got a flyer [asking for teachers to teach We the People] in the mail, “ said Mr. Oglesby.
From there, Mr. Oglesby’s fondness of the class has grown as he finds it more engaging for the students than textbooks because it forces them to think and collaborate.
From a student’s perspective, We the People student, senior Andrew Meagher, notices Mr. Oglesby’s commitment every day. “He covers everything in depth, knows answers, and will go home and do research on a question if he is intrigued by it,” Meagher said.
Former AP U.S. Government and Politics student and current We the People student, senior Meagan Roche likes Mr. Oglesby as a teacher because he is one of the only teachers who thoroughly promotes learning. “He facilitates thought and is super excited about the material,” Roche said.
As for family, Mr. Oglesby tries to find the right balance of time. “I try to balance my faith, my family, and school commitments. We go on trips, play games, read with my youngest daughter, etc. to spend time together,” he shared.
Mr. Oglesby also notes how understanding his family is about all the time he puts into his school commitments, especially during We the People preparation time, and he just tries to spend as much time with them as he can, when he can.
It also helps that Mr. Oglesby’s wife, Karen Oglesby, helps run sports and activities with him. “We have a deal, the first sport is my choice; if there is a second sport we decide equally; and if there is a third sport season, it is entirely her decision (if she says no, I don’t coach). It has worked well so far,” Mr. Oglesby said.
Since high school, Mr. Oglesby has wanted to be a teacher. “I love what I do, working with kids makes me better,” Mr. Oglesby said.
It is that love that enables Mr. Oglesby to do all the work outside of school that he does. Every day, he takes work home in hopes to better his students and “produce critically thinking students.”
He seems to be doing a great job because when asked what Mr. Oglesby has taught them that they will always remember, both Meagher and Roche quickly responded with, “thinking critically of the government.”
Walking into Ms. Gabriella DiNatale’s room there are a few things you will immediately notice.
The self-proclaimed “giant nerd” has numerous flags from the United Kingdom and Ireland that create a border around her room, Star Wars posters on the wall, and a giant quote from Yoda on the back wall. Her room says a lot about her, but what says more is her willingness to learn and the ambition she has to help Howell High School and the community. Ms. DiNatale teaches British Literature, Senior English, plans the European trip every year, and manages to succeed at being the senior class advisor as well.
Ms. DiNatale went to Powers Catholic High School and the University of Michigan in Flint. She first started in journalism, then psychology, and ended majoring in education. Ms. DiNatale’s favorite teaching method is something she calls Reciprocal Learning. She wants her students to work together and be included. “It’s a giant learn fest,” she said.
She feels that if she learns something new when the students do, she is doing her job. Discovering together is her greatest goal when it comes to teaching. One teacher that has impacted her life greatly was her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Laurie Ann Gallagher. She says that she wants to be like her and that Mrs. Gallagher always made everyone feel welcomed and loved, and she was always so nice. Ms. DiNatale has a lot of respect for her and still sees Mrs. Gallagher when she visits her parents back in Fenton, MI.
As many people know, Ms. DiNatale is a huge Star Wars fan. She has even gone to a Star Wars convention and attempted to dress up as Princess Leia. Ms. DiNatale’s favorite Star Wars character is Yoda. “Yoda is the master teacher. I strive my entire life to be like Yoda. I am waiting for my Luke Skywalker, the best Jedi ever.”
Ms. DiNatale is also a huge fan of British Literature. Her main reason for wanting to teach British Literature is Jane Austen. She read her first Austen book, Pride and Prejudice, in fifth grade. From then on she was a huge fan of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Every few years for Brit Lit, the class takes a trip to Great Britain and Ireland. They usually fly into Ireland, take a ferry to Wales, a bus to Scotland, and a train to England.
Ms. DiNatale also serves as the senior class student council advisor. She has been a student council advisor since her second year of teaching, during the 2001-2002 school year. When asked why she wanted to be a STUCO advisor she replied, “I just wanted to be like Mr. Starkey (who currently serves as an assistant principal at Three Fires Middle School.) He is my Student Council idol.” This year, Ms. DiNatale and social studies teacher, Ms. Dana Ritenour, have led the 2011 seniors to another victory by achieving the Spirit Award.
Ms. DiNatale is considered by staff and students to be a great leader in the Howell School’s community. This teacher “doesn’t hide much” and “has no secrets” when it comes to letting her students in on her life, walking into her classroom you know who she is. From Star Wars, to student council, to her love for British novelists, Ms. DiNatale is a common teacher favorite.