When he was a senior in high school, Scott Redding decided to major in education because his mother told him to.
“It was my senior year of high school, and I really had no idea what to do. My mother said, ‘Why don’t you teach? We don’t have any teachers in the family,'” recalled Redding, a biology and earth-science teacher at Geneva’s DeSales High School. “I liked it, and here I am all these years later.”
Teaching turned out to be not only something Redding enjoys, but something he excels in as well. More than a decade after he began teaching, Redding joined eight other teachers from Finger Lakes-area Catholic schools who were selected for inclusion in the ninth and most recent edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
Only 5 percent of the nation’s educators are honored in this book, and less than 2 percent get in more than once, according to letters sent to nominated teachers. Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers was first published in 1990 and became an annual publication in 2004. The ninth edition will be published in September.
Teachers are nominated for inclusion in the publication by current or former students. Only those top students who have been included in Who’s Who Among American High School Students, The National Dean’s List or Who’s Who Among American High School Students — Sports Edition may nominate their teachers for this honor.
The ninth edition will mark the first time Ann Marie Deutsch and Michele Cleaves of St. Mary’s School in Canandaigua and Doreen DeSain of DeSales have been included in the publication. Redding and Stanley Praszkowicz of DeSales; Dorothy Hinkle of St. Michael’s School in Newark; Anne Brown of St. Michael’s School in Penn Yan; and Mary Bates and Elizabeth Hezel of St. Mary’s have been included in the publication in previous years and will also be included in the ninth edition.
Unlike Redding, many of the local honorees knew they wanted to become teachers by a very young age. Brown said she liked her kindergarten teacher so much that by the end of the school year, she’d already decided she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Brown currently teaches a combined fourth- and fifth-grade class, and has been teaching at St. Michael’s since 1990.
As a young girl, Bates also knew she wanted to become a teacher. Her mother taught first grade at St. Mary’s, which Bates graduated from as a child. Bates followed in her mother’s footsteps and is currently in her 25th year as the first-grade teacher at St. Mary’s. She enjoys teaching first grade because her students are “so eager, so innocent, and the progress made from September to June is very rewarding.”
Teaching was something he just gravitated toward, said Praszkowicz, who has taught freshman and sophomore English at DeSales for the past four years. Deutsch, who is currently in her fifth year as principal at St. Mary’s, said she became a teacher in 1966 because she wanted to work with children. She understands the opportunities an education can provide, and enjoys being able to work with families to help children gain access to those opportunities.
DeSain, who teaches French, freshman English and an SAT-preparation course, said she enjoys the family atmosphere and the freedom to pray and talk about God at DeSales. She tries to teach her students how to express themselves and articulately back up their arguments if they disagree with something. Grades are important, but life skills are even more so, she said. Bates has a similar philosophy and strives to bring out the best in each child in her class.
“I try to give them the tools to live a life really with faith as their basis,” Bates said.
Hezel encourages her students at St. Mary’s to become lifelong learners. Hezel, who teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science and sixth-grade religion, reading and spelling, said she enjoys her job because each day is different and interesting.
Cleaves has worked with students of varying ages during her 12 years as an educator, but she especially enjoys working with younger children. She enjoys her current job of preparing children for kindergarten because “it’s such an important thing for them to have a positive preschool experience. If the children feel loved and nurtured and they are happy to come to school, then the learning is going to take place.”
Hinkle currently teaches seventh-grade history, eighth-grade religion and every fifth-grade subject except science and math. Her students have told her she’s a very fair teacher, she said.
“I don’t care whose child you are or who you are, I really try to treat everyone equally,” Hinkle said. “If the one thing that they can say about me is that I’m fair, I think that’s awesome.”
Both Praszkowicz and Redding said they believe in teaching until the course objectives have been obtained and everyone understands what has been covered. For Praszkowicz, this means allowing students to revise their writing assignments until their work has met appropriate standards. For Redding, this means tying science to something his students are interested in, such as sports, “to make sure it sticks.”