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Hometown Heroes: 13 Inspiring Educators We’re Thankful For This Month

By Nathania Johnson | November 22, 2016

Photo: Courtesy @RepSires on Twitter
This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, success stories, unexpected surprises and randoms acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring coverage at The74million.org/series/inspiring.
On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country gather around the table and share stories of the people and events that have had a positive impact on their lives during the previous year. We’ve had much to be thankful for, particularly the many hardworking and beloved educators who dedicate countless hours to teaching America’s children. Among them are a former first-grade teacher in Maryland who was tracked down by some grateful students 60 years later and a Washington State teacher who grew a pumpkin large enough to win a national prize. But of course, there are many more.
Here are 13 educators we read about this month who are doing amazing things in our nation’s schools:

Mr. Safarik, great outdoorsman (November 17, Texas) — Larry Safarik has spent the past 50 years teaching students to fish, camp and cook. The outdoor recreation teacher at Taylor Middle School in Taylor, Texas, he started out with a class of 12 boys and now instructs 100 girls and boys. (Read more: KVUE)

Ms. Woods, out-of-this-world science teacher (November 17, California) — Alane Woods had an unusual assignment for her eighth-graders at Ventura Missionary School in Ventura, Calif.: Build and program a robot that will be sent into outer space. The robot will help NASA collect data on heat absorption and consumption outside Earth’s atmosphere. (Read more: KEYT)

Ms. McCollum, beta tester (November 15, North Carolina) — Alisa McCollum, technology teacher at Stough Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., teamed up with software company SAS Curriculum Pathways to test a new iPad app designed to teach kids to code. Her students used the app, dubbed CodeSnaps, to learn how to control robots. (Read more: The News and Observer)

Ms. Patterson, founder of high school for addicted teens (November 15, Colorado) — Leslie Patterson, program director of Landmark Community School in Colorado Springs, Colo., is opening a high school specifically designed for recovering drug and alcohol addicts to earn a high school diploma. The school will open in January with 20 students, and she hopes to grow it to 100 students over the next five years. (Read more: KKTV)

Ms. Goldman, dancing machine (November 10, California) — Sue Goldman, principal at Gale Ranch Middle School in San Ramon, Calif., greets her students every morning by dancing in front of the school. At first, her students thought she was crazy, but now many of them are joining in. (Read more: NBC Bay Area)

Ms. Bass, cancer survivor (November 14, Florida) — When Jill Bass, a third-grade teacher at Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication in Bradenton, Fla., returned to the classroom after breast cancer surgery, the entire student body gathered in the school’s courtyard to sing “Fight Song” to welcome her back. Her parents, her son and some lifelong friends joined in the tribute. (Read more: Bradenton.com)

Ms. Cidel, casting director (November 7, Florida) — Tanisha Cidel, theater teacher at Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens, Fla., helped get some of her students cast in a local independent film, Moonlight. The movie, which has garnered critical acclaim, follows characters who grew up in the blighted Liberty City neighborhood in Miami during the crack and HIV epidemics of the 1980s. (Read more: Miami Herald)

Ms. Karriem, construction contractor (November 3, Washington, D.C.) — Shelly Karriem, director of the Academy of Construction and Design (ACAD) at IDEA Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., guides students toward careers and scholarships in the construction and carpentry trades. Her students recently put their skills to good use by building a tiny house with a sustainable design, including energy-efficient windows, bamboo flooring and an Energy Star kitchen. (Read more: The Washington Post)

Ms. Pitman, balloon pilot (October 25, California) — Darlene Pitman, STEM coordinator at Mesa View Middle School in Calimesa, Calif., helped her students launch a weather balloon carrying a simulated satellite that gathered atmospheric and geographic information. They collaborated with Magnitude.io, a Berkeley-based STEM education company, which directed the launch from the school’s athletic field. (Read more: The Press Enterprise)

Mr. Tithof, innovator for at-risk kids (November 1, Michigan) — William Tithof, principal of Washington Elementary in Bay City, Mich., launched an in-house therapy initiative that lets students access the services of a nurse, therapist and caseworker during school. The program was made possible by a $300,000 grant secured through a partnership of county health departments and a county court that was designed to reduce suspensions — and it’s worked. (Read more: mLive.com)

Ms. Wyand, art lover (November 14, New Hampshire) — Angie Wyand, a first-grade teacher at Peter Woodbury School in Bedford, N.H., couldn’t believe the designs that school custodian Ron Munsey vacuumed into her classroom rug — and couldn’t wait to share photos of his pile-driven artwork. Now, she often incorporates the carpet designs into her daily lessons. (Read more: WMUR)

Mr. Glazer, top scorer (October 31, Virginia) — Evan Glazer is principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., which led the nation in perfect AP scores this year. A whopping six perfect scores were achieved in U.S. government, computer science and Spanish. (Read more: The Washington Post)

Ms. McGeehan, thankful for their service (November 3, New Jersey) — Patricia McGeehan, superintendent of the Bayonne School District in Bayonne, N.J., honored six local veterans at a “Field of Heroes” ceremony at Bayonne High School before Veterans Day. The district also raised $5,000 for the local VFW post’s Veterans Museum through the sale of American flags. (Read more: NJ.com)
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