Saying I loved going to school never made me the most popular kid in the class or on the block, but I loved going and learning. I especially loved elementary school when Mr. Pelligrini took Sister Henrica’s place and taught history, geography and current events. Watching “Meet the Press” and PBS programs were homework. We’d have discussions and get excited about what we were learning.
High school was great because subjects such as chemistry, literature, Latin and typing — yes, on a manual typewriter — were offered. Sister Claire Louise taught the “hard stuff” such as chemistry and geometry. She was different from most of the other nuns at St. Patrick Girls High School. She was a thinker who probably would have worked for NASA if she hadn’t become a nun.
Most of the time, she kept her out-of-this-world ideas out of the classroom, but if you stayed after school and talked to her, you discovered a woman who loved learning and was excited about new concepts.
I spent 13 years in college and would probably still be taking classes if I had unlimited funds. Although some of my professors were mediocre and some outstanding, the things all of them had common were that they showed me different ways of looking at a subject or issue, as well as introducing me to new areas of study. They made me want to know more, no matter what the topic. They helped me think.
In March 1978, I earned a bachelor’s degree in history and started graduate school a few weeks later to work on my master’s degree in American immigration history.
In 1980, just a couple of classes short of finishing my master’s degree, I left the program to become the assistant director of the Italians in Chicago Project, based at the University of Illinois and funded to the tune of nearly $300,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I remained at the university and organized a 12,000-square-foot exhibition on Italians in Chicago at the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. Had it not been for my love of learning and the folks along the way who encouraged that love, I might have still been in a clerical job at the First National Bank of Chicago. Not that there is anything wrong with a steady job for 46 years, but I don’t think I would be the person I am today having been a 9-to-5 employee.
We live in a state ranked at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to educational achievement. According to an Associated Press article, “An annual survey by Education Week magazine ranks Nevada 50th in the nation for the quality of its public K-12 education. The Quality Counts 2010 survey gives Nevada an overall report card score of D. The nation, as a whole, earned a C.”
A report two years later from a private, charitable foundation states: “The ‘Kids Count’ report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation placed Nevada last in education and 48th overall in the U.S.”
I could go on, but you can Google Nevada’s educational ranking for yourself if you’re in an outstanding mood and need to bring yourself down a notch or two.
You can pat yourself on the back because Boulder City has good schools, but the system is far more than our city. The system doesn’t work for everyone. Putting more money into it could help, but it’s not the only answer.
Parents reading to their kids before they start school is priceless. Teachers using what they know works without hesitation and mountains of paperwork from administrators who may be happy to be out of the classroom are essential. New teachers and those not making the grade need to be properly trained how to teach, not discipline kids. They must be paid appropriately for the influence they have on our future generation.
Youngsters need to know how to behave in a classroom and respect teachers. Kids must learn to read by at least the third grade or they need to be held back until they can read. Engaged parents and well-trained, passionate teachers need to cooperate.
Kids need to love school.
Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 347-9924.