Maybe it’s time to thank an educator instead of bashing them

Scary as it may sound to me this year will mark 45 years since I sat in the gymnasium at Manistee High School and heard the sounds of Pomp of Circumstance played for my graduation ceremony by the high school band under the direction of then — director Paul Cramer.

Even though nearly a half a century may have passed, the one thing myself and many other people took away from their school experience was teachers and administrators who made a positive, lasting impact on our lives. For me personally it was teachers and administrators like Don and Audrey Strouf, Neil Brennan, Don Harned, Tom Culbert, Gary Bentley, Herb Higley, Bob Lippert, Jerry Pieczynski, Phil Snyder, Hilman Evans and others who taught us more than just the subject material.

Teachers and administrators impact students’ lives every day in the classroom beyond the basic subject material. They also teach values, morals and how to act as responsible citizens. It’s everything from proper behavior, to how to treat other human beings, to having a good work ethic by getting assignments done in a timely manner.

Most people who enjoy success in life either had good parents, good teachers or a combination of both that inspired them to go above and beyond in seeking their dreams. It happened back when I was a kid, and being the education writer gives me the opportunity to see it continue to happen to this day.

Let me tell you, that is pretty special and very important to kids that age.

The other other night when covering the Kaleva Norman Dickson Board of Education meeting there was an announcement that proved to me good teachers still do make a difference. During that meeting it was announced that Brethren High School teacher Kirsten Amstutz was named as a regional semifinalist for the Michigan Department of Education Teacher of the Year.

Was I surprised?  Not at all from what I have witnessed over the years in covering the education beat and what Kirsten has done in her 21 years of helping Brethren students become the best they can be in life.

She is constantly encouraging her students through a variety of ways such as writing letters of support to the Elks Teen or the Month candidates to serving as National Honor Society adviser and much more. It is doing what a teacher does beside instruct, which is to inspire young minds.

Kirsten and her husband Andy, who also teaches at Brethren High School, are educators who have three priorities when it comes to teaching. Those priorities are quite simply the students, the students and the students.

But then what else would you expect employees from a district where the sign at the school entrance and everywhere else proudly boasts  the motto “Small school — big family.” It’s words that every teacher and administrator in the KND district take to heart on how they approach education and kids.

What is amazing is the same type of atmosphere can be found throughout this county in school buildings. The same can be said of the teachers and administrators at Onekama, Bear Lake, Manistee Area Public, Manistee Catholic, Trinity Lutheran schools, and CASMAN Academy where they all carry the ultimate goal of seeing students succeed.

That is why it is always disappointing to see people like our governor and legislators constantly attacking teachers saying they want more from them in terms of student success. The bigger question is do the legislators even know the proper way to measure student success?

I doubt it.

The ever changing tests, silly mandates, teacher evaluations and other things are forcing good young people to turn their back on an incredibly important career of educating our youth. It is obvious in the shortage of teaching candidates that exist today. More and more people turn to other careers all because of mandates set down by people in Lansing who are clueless as to what really transpires in a classroom.

What is sad is it makes you wonder how much longer our youth of today will be able to create those fond memories of teachers and administrators like myself and many who followed me over the years. Losing that would be catastrophic to the upcoming generation.

Hopefully some things will change so we continue to have administrators and teachers like Kirsten Amstutz and the many others like her in this county so students can continue to be inspired to achieve all they can be in life long after I … see you next Wednesday.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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