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Teachers Who Inspired Teachers: Ms. Schmidt, Mr. Friedberg and Ms. Stapleton

Here we are in day 3 of Teacher Appreciation Week and onto the fourth post of our Teachers Who Inspired Teachers series! Have you thanked a teacher yet? Today we hear from a high school world history teacher hailing from the west coast. He shares stories about three teachers from his schooling that helped him become the dynamic and passionate educator he is today.


Ms. Schmidt, Mr. Friedberg and Ms. Stapleton by Karl Lindgren Streicher

I was blessed to have a couple of spectacular history teachers when I was in high school. Teachers who engaged my mind. Who made me want to succeed. Who pushed me to want to do my best. Teachers who got me interested in history - a subject I never cared about until I was an 11th grader.

My name is Karl Lindgren-Streicher and I teach 9th and 10th grade world history in San Mateo, CA. I'd like to tell you about three of the teachers I've been blessed to have who have had a profound impact on my life and on my teaching.

My favorite teachers in high school were both history teachers: Mary Schmidt was my junior year rise of western civ teacher and Jon Friedberg taught my AP US history class my senior year. I have to mention Laurie Stapleton as well - she was one of my professors in grad school. All three were very different teachers, but all were excellent in their own way.

Ms Schmidt taught our western civ class at an AP level. Her class was probably the hardest class I took in high school. She regularly used high level vocabulary - I occasionally had no idea what she was talking about - and really pushed her students to think deeply about history. Additionally, it was in her class that I first came into contact with a different view of history: at some point in the first semester, we read Howard Zinn's chapter on Columbus from A People's History of the United States. That blew my mind: I can't remember reading such a jarringly different narrative about a historical figure I thought I knew before this. Perhaps most importantly, and probably more than any other class in high school, I wanted to do well in Ms Schmidt's class because I wanted her to see me as an intelligent student.

I hope I challenge my students the way Ms Schmidt did. I hope I force them to build their academic vocabulary in my class. I hope we look at things in history that run counter to the dominant narrative in my class the way we did in her class.

I still have lunch with Mr Friedberg when I'm back in Wisconsin. He was tasked with getting a bunch of us ready for the AP test in May of our senior year. We did a lot of DBQ writing (document based question, a staple of the AP test then) in his class. He was also a great lecturer. He knew all the funny and a bit controversial facets of American historical figures. I read ahead in his class - read to cover the content of the upcoming lecture before the actual lecture - so I could more completely pay attention to all these tidbits. He also put up with us saying he wore shirts that looked like table cloths and allowed us to compile a list of oft-quoted Friedberg-isms.
I know in terms of personality and how I relate to kids, my class is similar to Mr. Friedberg's. Kids pick at me and my idiosyncrasies in a way similar to how I interacted with him. Similar to his class, I try to have a systematic approach around writing.

I think that both of these teachers emphasized aspects of their class around an idea that shows up in my class: there isn't a right or wrong answer - there are varying levels of achievement in justifying your answer. Both were hugely influential in my burgeoning love of history. I can safely say I wouldn't be a history teacher today had I not had these two great teachers.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't say more about Laurie Stapleton in this post. I had the privilege of being in a class Laurie taught in grad school. I don't remember what she taught - grad school was a blur, with student teaching all morning and going to class in the afternoon and then trying to be ready for the next day. I do, though, remember that Laurie listened and empathized with her students in a way I've not ever seen another teacher do. I hope my students feel half as heard as I felt in Laurie's class.

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