The Role of a Role Model

by Gale Fischer

“The mediocre mentor tells. The good mentor explains. The superior mentor demonstrates. The greatest mentors inspire.”

—Lucia Ballas Traynor

A teacher’s job description consists of an extensive list. There are some responsibilities that are set in stone as a part of contractual duties. Creating lesson plans, teaching the curriculum and grading tests and student work are a part of every day teaching assignments. These tasks are clear and concise. There are other obligations that are expected but not necessarily a part of academic learning including, managing student behavior and providing guidance for students in regards to social interactions. Many teaching chores are black and white but some harbor more on areas of gray. Being a role model is one such area. Acting as a role model is not as simple as following a list of specified directions. This very important job is ingrained in every aspect of teaching. Leading by example for students on how to learn, speak with classmates and interact with others is part of the ongoing process of being a role model. It goes beyond teaching children how to read, write or perform mathematical computation. This month’s Harper Unsung Hero, Kevin Faraci, takes all duties of his job seriously but truly understands that being a role model is the most important part of his job, especially as a male teacher in an elementary school. It seems that much of Kevin’s experience as a child helped to lead him to a career as a teacher. 

Kevin reflects on the details of being born into a blue collar family. “My dad, Pete, worked for General Motors in the Detroit Metropolitan area. I was born in Detroit in 1981, the youngest of four children. I have one brother, Darrell and two sisters, Renee and Heather. We lived in St. Clair Shores until I was seven years old.” Kevin and his family packed their bags and moved to the west side of the state in 1988, when his dad was transferred to a General Motors Plant in Grand Rapids. “Dad was a tool and dye worker. He worked for General Motors for over thirty years, retiring twelve years ago.” Kevin’s parents made a great team with Pete as the family breadwinner and his mom Deb keeping things running at home as a stay at home mom. They have been married for fifty-two years. 

Kevin is appreciative of the commitment that his parents have made to each other and to he and his siblings and the sacrifices that they have made along the way. “My dad worked the second shift. Mom would have lunch with Dad every day before he went into work. She would make dinner every night for me and my siblings and the five of us would eat together.” The dinner routine each night provided structure and stability for Kevin and his siblings but there was more than cooking dinner in Deb’s role as a stay at home mom. It was a full time job that she took very seriously. Kevin feels fortunate to have grown up with his mom staying at home. “She was the caregiver, the disciplinarian, the organizer. All of us had chores. Mom was fairly structured. We all knew what was expected of us. She enjoyed raising us. It was important to her.” The structure that Kevin’s mom provided was something that both of his parents created for he and his siblings. “Both Mom and Dad were very faith driven. I went through catechism through eighteen. Mom and Dad are still very religious.”

As the youngest of four siblings, Kevin learned many lessons and created many memories with his brother and sisters. He describes some of the childhood experiences with his siblings. “My siblings and I were all two years apart. Many family vacations were spent up in northern Michigan in Hale, enjoying time outside in the area surrounding my grandfather's cottage. Most memories I have with my siblings from spending summers at the cottage include tubing, fishing and playing games until midnight with the neighborhood kids.” 

Kevin attended school and graduated from a high school similar to Harper Creek. “I graduated from Hudsonville High School in 1999 with about 210 classmates in my senior class. It was a smaller farming community.”  Kevin didn’t really participate in any extracurricular activities associated with school but did spend much of his childhood involved in another structured activity. “I participated in scouting through the age of eighteen. I had many experiences that I would have never had because of scouting.”

Neither of Kevin’s parents attended and graduated from college immediately after high school but this was something that Pete and Deb wanted for their children. “My siblings all went to college. I always knew that I would go to college. This was an expectation that Dad had for all of us. It was important to him that we earn a college degree.”

One of his elementary school teachers would help Kevin to realize what he wanted to pursue for a career. “My senior year in high school I had an opportunity to cadet teach with my sixth grade teacher, Bruce Coston. He had a passion for helping us to learn. He was amazing.”  Mr. Coston was intimidating for many students in the earlier grades but for those who had the opportunity to learn in his classroom, the feeling of intimidation would change to respect. “He was everyone’s favorite teacher. He was stern, passionate and he gave us structure. I was scared to have him as a teacher initially, but he made an impression on me quickly and soon I was happy to have him as a teacher. Once I started cadet teaching with him I knew that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Mr. Coston was a great role model for all of his students.” 

When it was time for Kevin to choose what college to attend he wanted to stay away from the schools that were more popular among his high school classmates. “I chose Eastern Michigan because it was different and new. Most of the kids that I graduated with were going to other places. I knew that I wanted something different. I didn’t know anyone who was going there, but I did meet some other guys there my freshman year that I still talk to.”

Kevin’s first teaching opportunity upon graduating from Eastern brought him back to the west side of the state and the Cereal City. “After graduating from Eastern in 2005, I landed a job at Post Elementary teaching 4th grade. I started out as a long term substitute.” Kevin met another teacher while at Post who would become a very big part of his future. “I met Megan who taught second grade at Post. Megan and I started dating in the spring after I started teaching there.”

After one year at Post, Kevin would transition to another school. He describes this shift. “Because Megan and I started dating my principal didn’t want us in the same building so the next year I went to Fremont Elementary and taught first grade.” Being a first grade teacher gave Kevin valuable experience but he knew he wanted something different. “I wanted to teach upper elementary and the following school year an opportunity came my way. I went to Springfield Middle School to teach 5th grade and help coach wrestling. Battle Creek Public reconfigured their schools and fifth grade was moved to elementary. When the reconfiguration occurred I went to Valley View Elementary as a 5th grade teacher.” 

Kevin and Megan continued to learn and grow as teachers. Their relationship would grow as well. It didn’t take long for both of them to realize that they made a great couple. They shared many interests and had so much in common. Kevin describes the next journey in his life with Megan. “Megan and I were engaged in October of 2006, six months after we started dating. We were married again a year later in Key West, Florida. We have so many things in common. Being a teacher married to a teacher has been great.”  

Both Kevin and Megan wanted to expand their family early into their marriage. “We both knew that we wanted to have kids right away. We started trying immediately. We spent a few months trying but things didn’t work. We began in vitro fertilization. Megan became pregnant in 2008.” Kevin and Megan thought that their prayers had been answered but their plans would be altered again. “Megan lost the baby eight weeks into her pregnancy. This was devastating for both of us. We waited a couple months and did another in vitro fertilization. After seven weeks of pregnancy she thought she had lost the baby but we went to the doctor and there was a heartbeat.” Kevin and Megan were blessed with a girl, Emerson, August 9, 2010. 

Kevin’s life was fulfilled as a husband, father and teacher. He enjoyed being a classroom teacher but thought he might want something different. He went back to school to pursue a Masters Degree. “In 2010 I earned my admin degree from Western Michigan. Battle Creek Public was a big school district and it seemed that it would be difficult to shift from the classroom to administration so I decided it was time to apply elsewhere. There were potential opportunities to get into administration in Comstock.”

There wasn’t an immediate opportunity to work as an administrator in Comstock for Kevin but he thought that taking a job as a classroom teacher there might help him get his foot in the door. “In 2014 I went to Comstock to teach a 3rd/4th grade split in hopes of an administration opportunity in the future. I eventually began working for their implementation team while also teaching 3rd/4th grade.”

Working for the implementation team in Comstock wasn’t an actual administrative position but it gave Kevin a taste of what it would be like to lead in that capacity, while also providing him with valuable experience. This experience would prove to benefit him when an opportunity came from another school district in the area. He took a job as a building principal in Three Rivers in 2017, holding this job for two years. 

Kevin enjoyed being a building principal but missed Battle Creek. It was time to go back to the Cereal City. “I started at Harper Creek the fall of 2020 as a second grade virtual teacher. In 2021 I transitioned to Sonoma as a student support specialist. Coming back to Battle Creek made me feel at home again. I had taught in Battle Creek for a long time and being back in the community has been a positive experience.”

Kevin reflects on his experiences being an educator in an elementary building. “When I first started my career as an elementary teacher, I immediately felt like it was the right thing. I knew I wanted to support kids, families and teachers. Many things are out of a child’s control so I don’t judge kids for these things. As a male teacher in an elementary school I have a great opportunity to be a positive role model.” 

Teaching can be difficult. Sometimes the behaviors that we see, the things that kids do and the way that they react to circumstances are hard to understand from an adult lens. Kevin’s reflection on how to deal with these things as a teacher can help put things into perspective. “Remember that kids are kids. They can only be kids so long. Love them like they are your own because this is what they need.” 

Teaching is not a career that is for everyone. Dealing with pressure from the top down on student test performance and scoring proficiency can be a great source of stress. Extreme student behavior and frustration with uncooperative parents can make coming into work each day a challenge. The outside noise that comes from many not a part of the profession, that teachers are failing our society creates feelings of being unappreciated. Even with all of these distractions there are daily reminders that teaching is a fulfilling profession. Each day is different and each tiny reward can be an unexpected pleasure of the job. Kevin’s reflection in his years as an educator is a reminder that teaching is full of blessings. The responsibility that we take on is great but the payoff can be even greater. 

 

 

Gale Fischer has spent most of his career as a special education teacher for Wattles Park Elementary dating back to 2001. He is an avid runner and began writing the stories of local runners twelve years ago. Many of these stories have appeared in the Battle Creek Shopper and the Battle Creek Scene Magazine. Recently he started capturing the stories of Harper Creek staff members. His column, Harper Unsung Heros, features a different staff member each month . He believes that everyone has a story that can inspire others.

Harper Creek Community Schools Bond Proposal

Vote May 7, 2024

$24 M for Facility Improvements

0.6 Mill Increase From Current Debt Levy

Harper's Unsung Hero - Thom Shipley

Thom Shipley experienced great success as a high school baseball player. He was blessed with the opportunity to play Division One college baseball and even spent a summer season as a teammate of Baseball  Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, on an all-star high school baseball team. He had aspirations of playing professionally but injuries cut his dreams short. His story shows us that happiness is there for the taking even when things don’t go as planned.

Harper's Unsung Hero - Sarah Piotrowski

Sarah knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher. As a little girl she spent hours playing school at home. Read her story and learn of her journey that has led her to Sonoma Elementary as a teacher for students with emotional impairments. Every day she creates a safe and accepting environment for some of our most vulnerable children.