Roberta Flack: Public School Teacher and Grammy Award Winning Music icon

imagesMany people have heard of the Grammy Award-winning songwriter and singer Roberta Flack, whose best-known songs are “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” and “Where Is the Love?” But did you know that this famous jazz, folk, and R&B icon was once a public school teacher?

Roberta Cleopatra Flack was born February 10, 1937, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, although she was raised in Arlington, Virginia. Her mother was a church organist, so Roberta grew up in a musical household. At the age of nine, Roberta began to study classical piano, and by the time she was fifteen, she had won a music scholarship to Howard University. She completed her undergraduate work and her student teaching as the first African American student teacher at an all-white school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. Then Roberta accepted a position teaching music and English in Farmville, North Carolina, a gig which paid her only $2,800 per year. She also taught junior high school in Washington, DC, and at the same time she took side jobs as a night club singer. It was there that she was discovered and signed to a contract for Atlanta Records. The rest, as they say, is music business history.

In recent years, Roberta’s contribution to education came when she founded an after-school music program entitled “The Roberta Flack School of Music” to provide free music education to underprivileged students in the Bronx, New York City. 

Roberta Flack: Truly a Chalkboard Champion.

Dr. George Fischbeck: Dynamic Science Teacher and TV Weatherman

 

imagesThere are many fine examples of talented educators making a mark in fields outside of education. A notable example of this is George Richard Fischbeck, a former science teacher who became a well-known television weatherman in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in Los Angeles, California.

George was born on July 22, 1922, in the small town of Wallington, New Jersey, and raised in Farmingdale, New Jersey. The oldest of four children, he was the son of George and Johanna (Mohlenhoff) Fischbeck. His father was a farmer and his mother was a teacher.

Always an avid student of nature, George first became interested in meteorology when he was stationed in Hawaii with the US Army during World War II and the Air National Guard during the Korean War. Once he was discharged, George attended the University of New Mexico, where he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. Then he worked in Albuquerque as a teacher in a career that spanned 23 years.
His daughter, Nancy Fischbeck of Woodland Hills, once described her father as a whirlwind of energy, and he focused it on teaching others about how nature works. “That’s what my childhood was, and why it was so exciting,” she  said. “We’d do experiments up on the roof, collect meteor fragments on the mesas in New Mexico, or make clouds in a bottle. He was such a great science teacher.”

After he retired from teaching, George launched his career as a television personality as the host of a children’s science program in Albuquerque. Known popularly throughout his 20 years on TV as “Dr. George,” he was well-known for his non-scripted and humorous broadcasts, and for his bow ties, thick-rimmed glasses, and mustache. “That was the classroom. He was the old professor and that was the look,” Nancy remembered. “The old professor with the mustache, glasses, and pointer.”

Dr. Fischebeck could see the obvious similarities between his two careers. “I come from a family of teachers, and I’ll tell you one thing about teaching, if you can get a kid’s attention you can teach them anything,” he once said during an interview. “You’ve got to do whatever you can to make sure they’re listening to you and not doing anything else. And then you can teach them.” It was a strategy that also worked with his television audiences.

For his service to youth, George garnered a Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1979.  He was honored again in 2003 when he was given the Los Angeles Area Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was given an honorary doctorate in humanities from Albuquerque University.

George retired from television in 1997. Once he retired, he became a guest speaker in Los Angeles schools, served as a volunteer with the Los Angeles Zoo, and worked with the Los Angeles Police Department Volunteer Surveillance Team. This amazing educator and television personality passed away from natural causes on March 25, 2015, at the age of 92.


Patrick Seitz: Animated Move, Anime and Video Game Voice Over Artist—and High School English Teacher

patrick_seitz_full2There are many fine examples of teachers who have made their mark in professions other than education. Such is certainly the case for David Patrick Seitz, a high school Language Arts teacher who has also distinguished himself as a voice actor, script writer, and ADR director. ADR means automated dialogue replacement, and is commonly known as “dubbing.”

David Patrick who prefers to be called Patrick, was born March 17, 1978, in Riverside, California, and raised in that suburb of Los Angeles. After graduating from high school, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing (1999), and his master’s degree in Creative and the Performing Arts Writing (2005), both from the University of California, Riverside. Then he went to work as an English teacher at his high school alma mater.

In 2001, the enterprising educator began his career as a voice actor. In this capacity, Patrick has provided voices for several English versions of Japanese anime and video games, performing in over 100 projects to date. In the movies, Patrick is known for his work on the animated movies Inside Out (2015), Monsters University (2013) and Resident Evil: Damnation (2012). He has also done voice over work for video games. He has supplied the voice of Ragna in the BlazBlue series, Scorpion in the last few Mortal Kombat titles, Lucian, Kog’Maw, and Renekton in League of Legends, Arthas Menethil and Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft, among others. As an ADR director, Patrick has adapted and directed over 100 episodes of popular series. He adapted and directed the English dubbed versions of Girls Bravo, Kamichu, Tales of Phantasia, Zegapain, Hell Girl, and Romeo and Juliet.

 

Former elementary teacher Alexis Krauss becomes noise pop band sensation

thThere are many examples of contemporary entertainers who were once school teachers. One of these is Alexis Krauss, a former elementary school teacher who is now best known as the vocalist of American noise pop band Sleigh Bells.

Alexis was born September 15, 1985, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. She is the daughter of a professional musician, and as a child, she frequently performed in musical theater productions.

Once she graduated from high school, Alexis enrolled in college and majored in political science. “I was studying poli sci and international studies and was doing a lot of research on the right to education and children’s education,” Alexis once revealed. “I ended up joining Teach for America. I taught for two years in the south Bronx, and that was one of the most, probably the most, rewarding and challenging things I’ve ever done,” she expressed.

After two years of teaching, Alexis met Derek E. Miller, a restaurant server. The two discovered they shared an interest in music, and before long, they decided to form a band they called Sleigh Bells. The duo has just released their fourth record.

Has Alexis received any feedback about her music from her former students? “You know, I have,” she confesses. “They’re older now; they’re big, bad seventh-graders. But they’re way more interested in Demi Lovato and One Direction. You hear them trying to sound like they’re into it though! It’s so cute. They’re like ‘Ummmmm, Mrs. Krauss, your music is really good but it’s kinda weird!’”

The President’s Sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng: Talented Teacher and Author

Maya Soetoro-NgMaya Soetoro-Ng is a former high school history teacher, current university professor, and expert in comparative international education. She also happens to be the half-sister of President Barack Obama. Born in 1970 in Jakarta, Indonesia, she is the daughter of Anne Durham, Barack Obama’s mother, and Anne’s second husband, Indonesian businessman Lolo Soetoro. An accomplished educator in her own right, Maya’s work as a promoter of international relations would be amazing, even if she did not enjoy her presidential connections.

Early in her career, Maya taught history at La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls and at the Education Laboratory School, both located in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has also taught courses as an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii, College of Education, and between 1996 and 2000, she developed and taught curriculum at The Learning Project, an alternative public middle school located in New York City. She has also served as an Education Specialist at the East-West Center, an organization that promotes understanding between the United States, Asia, and the nations of the Pacific.

Maya published a children’s book entitled Ladder to the Moon in 2011. The book is a fantasy story about the president’s mother, cultural anthropologist Ann Dunham, and her adventures with Maya’s daughter, Suhaila. In the book, the pair help orphaned tsunami victims and, as the title suggests, climb a ladder to the moon. Maya said she first got the idea for the book when her daughter said she wanted to know about her grandmother–who she never had a chance to meet. Dunham passed away from ovarian cancer in 1995.

Maya is currently working on a book about peaceful conflict resolution aimed at high school students. She also oversaw the 2009 publication of her mother’s dissertation, entitled Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, authoring the foreword to the book and presenting it at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association.