Colyn Fischer: Middle school music teacher and award-winning Scottish Fiddler

imgresThere are many examples of talented musicians who go on to become exemplary music educators. This is certainly true of Colyn C. Fischer, an award-winning violinist from Pennsylvania who now works as a middle school music teacher.

Colyn was born in 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began to play the violin at the tender age of three, concentrating on Scottish fiddling since the age of five. While just a teen, he studied under a number of notable American Scottish fiddlers, including John Turner and Bonnie Rideout, and several celebrated fiddlers from Scotland, including Ian Powie and Alasdair Hardy.

Following his graduation from Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pennsylvania, Colyn enrolled at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance in violin from Wheaton College in 1999. He completed the requirements for his teaching credential at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in 2005.

In 1993, Colyn garnered the first-place title in the American National Scottish Fiddling Championship, Junior Division. In 2005 he won in the open category in Texas, a title which he captured again in 2006 in Ohio.

Colyn first taught music in grades three through eight in the Silver Valley Unified School District in California’s San Bernardino County. He worked there from 2006-2009. Currently, Colyn teaches orchestra at Central Middle School in the San Carlos School District located in San Francisco, California. He also teaches the annual Jink and Diddle School of Scottish Fiddling, and gives private violin and fiddle lessons.

Chalkboard Hero James Dallas: High school English teacher, veteran, businessman, and civic leader

James_A._Dallas_Sr.Many gifted educators make significant contributions to their local communities in addition to their dedication to their professions. Such is the case with James A. Dallas, a high school English teacher from Florida.

James A. Dallas was born in Monticello, Florida, on December 19, 1917, one of seven children born to parents Albert and Florida Dallas. Sadly, young Jimmie was orphaned before his twelfth birthday, so he was raised by his siblings. Following his high school graduation from Middletown High School in Hillsborough County in 1936, Jimmie enrolled first in Bethune-Cookman College and then in Florida A&M University. There he played trombone in the university’s marching, concert, and jazz bands. After he earned his degree at Florida A&M in 1941, Jimmie enrolled in the pharmacy program at Howard University. However, ten days after his admittance into the program, young James was drafted into the United States Army. Jimmie served his country as a First Sergeant in the 24th Infantry Division in Okinawa, Japan, from 1942-1946.

Once Jimmie earned his discharge from the army, he accepted a position as a teacher of English and public speaking at Dorsey High School in Miami, Florida. He later transferred to Blanch Ely High School and then Sunrise Middle School. “He was a good English teacher,” remembered former colleague James Crumpler. “The kids liked him. He related real well with them.” In ¬†his fourth year of teaching career, Jimmie married fellow educator Margie Sweet. The union produced three children: Ronald, James II, and Michele.

During these years, Jimmie was active in the local chapter of the NAACP. He became a leader in the Elks Lodge, and became a founding member of the Young Men’s Progressive Association. In addition to teaching and civic activities, Jimmie was also a successful businessman. He owned two nightclubs which hosted many famous musicians of his day, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Lionel Hampton. He also owned a local grocery store and a pest control business.

After a distinguished career spanning 36 years, James Dallas retired in 1982. This American hero and chalkboard champion passed away on April 9, 2004. He was 86 years old. To honor him, a street in Fort Lauderdale has been named after him.

Teacher, feminist, and environmental activist Ruth Chickering Clusen

Clusen_9Throughout our history, many accomplished educators have also distinguished themselves as civic leaders and political activists. Such is certainly the case with Ruth Chickering Clusen, a high school teacher who also served as the president of the League of Women Voters and as an assistant secretary in the US Energy Department.

Ruth Chickering was born in 1922 in the little town of Bruce, Rusk County, Wisconsin. Upon her high school graduation from Eau Claire, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Even before graduating from college, Ruth was working as a teacher. She spent her first two years teaching on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Montana, and she taught in public schools in the Green Bay area from 1947 to 1958.

Ruth met her future husband, Donald Clusen, when he was interviewed by her father for a teaching position at the old Wisconsin School for Boys in Waukesha County.They married a few years later, and settled with their two daughters in Green Bay, where Donald had accepted a position as a teacher at the state reformatory.

Ruth served as the president of the League of Woman Voters. She served in this capacity from 1974 to 1978. During those years, Ruth worked to bring environmental issues to national attention. She was especially concerned with water purity, particularly the condition of Green Bay, where water pollution was pervasive. Ruth also campaigned for women’s rights, working tirelessly but unsuccessfully to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. During the election year, she moderated debates between candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

Once Carter was elected president, he appointed Ruth Assistant Secretary of Energy, a position she held from 1978 to 1981. There she worked to reduced fossil fuel consumption at the Energy Department. For her efforts, Ruth was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2001.

After leaving the Energy Department, Ruth returned to her roots as an educator. She became a member of the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin, where she worked from 1983 to 1992.

This chalkboard champion passed away March 14, 2005, in Bellevue, Wisconsin, from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She was 82 years old.

 

Substitute teacher and award-wining sports newscaster Drew Esocoff

Talented substitute teachers can also be considered chalkboard champions. A superb example of this is Drew Esocoff, a major network sportscaster who has also worked as a substitute school teacher.

Escoff_Drew-150x150Drew was born in 1957 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As a teenager, he attended Thomas Jefferson High School, an all-boys institution, where he graduated in 1975. The school incorporated a local all-girls school in 1977 and was renamed Elizabeth High School.

Following his high school graduation, Drew enrolled in Colgate University, a private liberal arts university located in Hamilton, New York. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1979. During his college years, Drew worked as a substitute teacher at his alma mater, Elizabeth High School, where he earned money to pay his college expenses. One of his students there was New York Jets football coach Todd Bowles.

After his college graduation, Drew ¬†worked as a sports commentator and program director for ESPN and ABC, serving as the director for such national programs as Monday Night Football, Sports Center, the NBA Finals, Triple Crown horse racing programs, and five Super Bowl broadcasts. Drew’s work has not gone unnoticed. He has won eleven prestigious Emmy Awards for his television work.

Drew currently lives in West Redding, Connecticut, with his wife and two children.