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Teach the Children Well

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Discussions of public education today sometimes seem to dwell on money, taxes, contracts, scandals and power plays.  In today’s Centre Square essay, Chris Satullo tries to remember what it’s really all about – teachers and students.

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On Labor Day, a friend mentioned a phone call from her brother.  A teacher, he’d been whining about having to start up his work year the next day.

My friend and I agreed.  This is one annoying end-of-summer ritual, teachers’ need to fish for sympathy because their 10-week break is over.  Earth to Teach: The rest of us have been dragging our rears into work all summer long.   And we understand you’re indignant that your generous defined-benefit pensions aren’t being fully funded. But guys, a little clue: Most of don’t even have such pension plans anymore.

The next day, though, I had reason to stop by a city school on the first day of the semester. I saw teachers arriving early, lugging boxes of supplies I’m sure they bought on their own dime, along with hand-drawn posters to brighten their rooms.

I was reminded what I really think of teachers – which is that they follow one of the world’s noblest callings. The good ones are worth twice what we pay them.  And I experienced a fond flood of remembered faces, of all the good teachers who propelled me to whatever success I’ve managed in life.

I thought of Miss Macaulay, my first-grade teacher.  Yes, I remember her name. I remember them all. She gave me a gift as great as any: She taught me to read.

I remember Miss Huber, who bet a nerdy fourth-grader who was gaga about the Civil War that he couldn’t finish Bruce Catton’s trilogy on the topic. She lost that bet, as she hoped she would.

More faces: Monsieur Kolar, suave and kind, who taught me to find the magic in Moliere.   Miss Franklin, who unpacked the glories of the great American novel – and imbued me with a thirst, thwarted but useful, to write one myself.

On into college.  How ever to thank my chief mentor, Peter Grudin?  One day, he grabbed me by my scruffy, timid neck, marched me into the college newspaper office and said to the editor, “This is Satullo. He’s an idiot but he can write a little.  Give him an assignment, and make him do it.”

Along with my family, these are the people who molded me – as they did hundreds of others who revere their memories to this day.  So, as the new school year revs up, I’ll say it, corny as it is: Hug a teacher today. I’m sure they could use the support.


  • Ellen M. O'Hara says:

    Chris, I have been teaching for 22 years and I come from a family of teachers, five generations on my father’s side, so I certainly know what it is to hear criticism of what we do. I am so grateful to you and anyone else who takes the time to look beyond our “short schedule” to see our dedication and caring. Teaching is the greatest profession on Earth and I am consistently grateful to have found myself in the classroom.

  • Tom Imburgia says:


    Nine years ago I left the pharmaceutical industry to teach science in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. While my salary has certainly changed, so has my compensation. Few students realize that they teach me as much as I teach them. I am always speechless when a student or parent tells me how much I have changed their lives. Thanks you for the public recognition, I firmly believe I have the best job in the world.

  • mark selikson says:

    Great piece. The best part was the insight, the direct path to the heart of the story. Your recent pieces are taking me back to a bygone era of journalism (circa 1965->75): early NPR, NYT – Wash Post – network news. In those days insight was not routinely sacrificed to today’s false god of balance. Keep up the good work. Thanks again for your touching essay.

  • Joe Voicheck says:

    Hi Chris,

    I already sent you an email on your article, which I heard on NPR. Brought back good memories of those who molded me beyond my parents. See my email for my thoughts!

    Thanks for your article about important people in my life!

  • Jane Shiyah says:

    Right on Chris!
    A good teacher can make all the difference in the world in the life of a child.And often the teacher never knows what an impact they have had. Nada Samuels just read Steve’s piece about Charles and she kept repeating, “I had no idea how much Charles influenced Steve. I had no idea and neither did Charles.

    Thanks for writing this Chris.

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