Amanda Curtis: High School Math Teacher and Former Member of Montana’s House of Representatives

5407fcc86f307.preview-620Many talented educators also distinguish themselves as successful politicians. A wonderful example of this is Montana’s Amanda Morse Curtis, a high school math and physics teacher who has also served in the Montana House of Representatives.

Amanda was born September 10, 1979. Her working-class childhood was anything but idyllic. When she was only four years old, her parents divorced. Amanda watched her mother struggle with mental illness. The family was poor, and at times, they had to live without utilities and rely on food stamps in order to eat. Amanda saw several members of her extended family battle with drugs and alcohol. Two weeks before her high school graduation, Amanda’s younger brother killed himself while playing Russian roulette. He was only 16.

Amanda knew that education was her ticket out of poverty. After graduating from Skyview High School, she attended Montana Technology University of the University of Montana, earning her bachelor’s of science in biology in 2002. She then attended the University of Montana Western where she earned her teaching credential.

After earning her degree, Amanda taught math and physics at Butte Central Catholic High School from 2004-2006. From 2006-2009, she taught math at Helena Middle School, and since 2009, she has taught math at Butte High School. She also served as an executive board member for the Butte Teachers Union from 2011-2012.

Amanda began her political career when she was elected to the Montana House of Representatives on November 6, 2012. Representing Butte, Montana, in House District 76, the freshman lawmaker succeeded Democrat Jon Sesso, who had been elected to the Montana Senate. While in office, she was assigned to the committees for business and labor, human services, and local government. She sponsored the Hire Montana First Act to create more jobs in her home state, and she fought for increased benefits for volunteer fire fighters and a repeal of state legislation against the gay community. She was also outspoken about gun violence, calling for background checks and better gun-control measures to be enacted. Naturally, Amanda has expressed her belief in the value of a good education. “As a high school teacher, I know the importance of investing in our students,” she said at a 2014 rally at the University of Montana. “Education is a path forward for better paying jobs and securing our economic future,” said continued.

Amanda met her husband, Kevin Curtis, at a rock-climbing store when he was training to be a speed skater. They live in a miner’s cottage in Butte with their cat, Geoff, and their dogs, Billie and Rick. The couple does not have any children.

John Taylor Gatto: English Teacher and Renaissance Man

Gatto11024x576Many talented educators are also published authors. This is the case with John Taylor Gatto, a veteran English teacher with thirty years of experience in the classroom who is also an accomplished author of highly-regarded books about the field of education.

John was born December 15, 1935, in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a river town thirty-five miles southeast of Pittsburgh. As a young boy, John attended publish schools in Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown, and the private Catholic boarding school in Latrobe, all towns located in western Pennsylvania.

After graduation from high school, John enrolled at Cornell University, and also completed undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia. He also served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following his army service, John did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva, the University of California, and Cornell.

In addition to his career as an educator, John has a varied and unique employment history. After college, he worked as a scriptwriter in the film industry. He was also employed for a time as an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hot dog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. During his years as a schoolteacher, John also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, and operated a rare book search service. In addition, he worked as a documentary record producer, producing films that presented the dramatized story of H.P. Lovecraft, and another that presented the speeches of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew. One of his productions won several awards for cover design and content.

Following his retirement, he authored several seminal books on modern education which offered a frank critique of current instructional practices. His best known books are “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” and “The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling.”

John was named Teacher of the Year in New York City in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and the Teacher of the Year for New York State in 1991. 

Duane Pomeroy: High School Social Studies Teacher and Topeka Politician

Often talented educators also distinguish themselves as public servants. This is true of Duane  Pomeroy, a high school social studies teacher and tennis coach who served for a time as the acting mayor of his home town of Topeka in Shawnee County, Kansas. Duane is pictured here on the left, following a tennis match.

11236168Duane was born in Topeka on January 1, 1952, and was raised there. His father, Elwaine Pomeroy, served sixteen years as a Kansas state senator. Duane graduated from Topeka High School in 1970. After his high school graduation, Duane enrolled at Washburn University in Topeka. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1978 and his teaching certificate in 1979. Interestingly, while he was working on his degrees, he served on the Topeka Unified School District 501 Board of Education for four years, from 1977 to 1981. Interestingly, Duane also served as an alternate delegate to Republican National Convention from Kansas in 1972.

Long after his service on the Board of Education, Duane accepted a position at Topeka High School where he taught government and social studies. He also served as the head coach for both the school’s tennis team and the bowling team.

Duane became a member of the Topeka City Council in January, 1993, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Vic Miller when Miller was elected to the Shawnee County Commission. Duane also served as the Deputy Mayor under Mayor Butch Felker. From November, 2003, to January, 2004, he served as the acting mayor when the mayor became involved in a scandal and was forced to resign. His weeks as the interim mayor were eventful. Besides overseeing the application process for appointing a new mayor, he made approximately 40 appointments and reappointments to city boards and commissions. He also handled recommendations related to streamlining expenses related to the city’s fire department.

On a personal note, Duane married Deborah Briggs, and the couple have two grown sons, Shane and Troy.

Mark Geiger: The High School Math Teacher with International Acclaim as a Soccer Referee

There are many examples of talented educators who have also logged impressive accomplishments in athletic arenas. Such is certainly the case with Mark Geiger, a former high school math teacher who now serves as a referee for Major League Soccer in both the United States and Canada.

imagesMark was born on August 25, 1974, in Beachwood, New Jersey. After graduating from Trenton State College, Mark taught advanced placement math at Lacey Townships High School in Lanoka Harbor, Ocean County, New Jersey. In 2009, this remarkable educator was one of 103 teachers who received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The prestigious award is given annually to the best elementary and secondary science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following a state-level selection process.

Mark earned his National Referee badge in 2003 while still teaching. He began his career as a part-time MLS referee a year later. In 2008, Geiger was added to U.S. Soccer’s International Panel of Referees, making him eligible for higher-profile international matches and requiring more travel. When he was offered a full-time, salaried position with the Professional Referee Organization, he reluctantly decided to retire from teaching. He wanted to referee international matches, and he was aware of FIFA’s preference for officials with full-time referee jobs.

Mark confesses that his experiences as a teacher has made a significant contribution to his success as a soccer referee. He once commented that math is about quantity, structure, space, and change, and that is also true of  the dynamics on the soccer field. He also remarked that maintaining order and clarity in a classroom of gifted, confident students is not that different from fairly governing the lightning-fast interplay of 22 of the world’s most gifted and talented soccer players. “When I was in the classroom, it was 25 or 30 students each with a different learning style,” he has said. “On the soccer field you have 22 different players, each with different personalities. So it’s about recognizing what’s going to work with a particular player and then implementing that.” He added, “The situations that are in the grey areas, preventing players from taking that next step, communicating with them, managing them, working with them” is what a good referee brings to the game. Sounds a lot like great teaching.

Mark is recognized as one of the best professional soccer referees in the business. He has worked the  Olympics games in 2012 and four matches during the U-20 World Cup finals in Colombia, which culminated in his officiating the championship game. The U-20 final marked the first time an American official refereed a major FIFA men’s tournament championship. Mark has also been to Morocco for FIFA’s Club World Cup, and he worked the fifth-place match between the Egyptian and the Mexican club. Later Mark served as the fourth official at the championship game. For his outstanding work as a referee, Mark was selected the Major League Soccer Referee of the Year in both 2011 and 2014.

Mark Geiger: a true chalkboard champion.