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Never Forget, Teachers Can Be Inspirational

Ellen Levitt

Posted on January 3, 2021 18:14

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Turns out that I knew the teacher who inspired the new hit animated film "Soul." He's just one of many inspirational teachers over the years.

I haven't yet seen the new Pixar animated film "Soul," but have encountered ads for it all over. It looks sweet and I'm interested. But then this morning I browsed through my digital copy of the New York Daily News and stopped at an article about the teacher who apparently is the inspiration for the film.

And I knew immediately who it was!

Mr. Archer, congratulations! This is amazing. And yes, I do remember him. I was a student teacher for just a semester at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74, and although most of the time I observed social studies classes, I did sit in on his band classes regularly-- and was very impressed. He had enthusiasm, and the students were enthusiastic in return. The kids were enjoying their lessons, and when Mr. Archer would listen to them practice, one of his stock comments of praise was "Not bad, not bad at all."

When I would ask him questions after class, he was down to earth and answered politely. He would also admit that he didn't always know if something would work. On the other hand, many of the other teachers I observed at this school were blase, mediocre, or worse. A few constantly yelled at kids, others seemed to phone it in. And this was actually considered a very good school. 

I ended up subbing at this school, and then spent my Department of Education (DoE) career teaching at schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, not Queens. (Easier commutes for me.) I've actually retired from the NYC DoE — but apparently, Mr. Archer is still teaching! Good for him. He must have nurtured generations of students, and I wouldn't be surprised that some of them went onto music programs in high school, college, and maybe even into musical careers.

It's fair to say that all of us have been taught by mediocre and even awful teachers. But the vast majority of us have also been taught by good and even excellent teachers. As a student, parent, and teacher, I've come across my share of both. It's the really good and even excellent ones whom we remember most fondly, who helped educate us best, who pushed us to achieve, who aided our maturation.

Sometimes the mediocre and bad teachers also inspired us. The first of my two 3rd grade teachers were awful, a cruel person who constantly did things wrong, and said hurtful things to students. I vowed that I'd never been like her in the classroom. On the other hand, my high school music teacher was an energetic and fair man who would only occasionally yell at us if we were out of hand, and we would be full of regret. 

Teachers need not be perfect, but they should strive to educate and nurture. I think (cautiously!) that I did so throughout my DoE career and also now as a part-time instructor in driving, and soon in adult education courses this spring (stay tuned).

And Mr. Archer, huzzah, man.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on January 3, 2021 18:14

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Source: KETV

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