Theater arts teacher Donald L. Leifert was also a sci fi/horror films actor

7648_7efe4ce15e731268698a14ae125931e5_centerI have often heard it said that there is a certain amount of theatrics involved in teaching. This must be true to some degree, because there are many examples of talented educators who are also successful as actors. One example of this is Donald L. Leifert, Jr., an English and theater instructor who also made a name for himself as a science fiction and horror films actor.

Donald was born on February 27, 1951, in Maryland, the son of Dolores J. and Donald L. Leifert, Sr. During the Viet Nam conflict, Donald served as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Following his stint in the army, he spent two years studying at the Douglas-Webber Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England.

Donald worked with indie director Don Dohler in such science fiction and horror film roles as the homicidal ghost in The Galaxy Invader, the contemptible lout Drago in Nightbeast, and the good-for-nothing redneck Frank Custer in The Alien Factor.

When Donald decided to change careers, he accepted a position teaching English and theater arts at the Carver School for the Arts in Baltimore County; English and journalism at Dundalk High and Catonsville High; and English and theater arts at Towson High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Donald was also a published author. He authored his biography, entitle Riggie: A Journey from 5th Street.

This exceptional educator passed away from natural causes at the young age of 59 on October 23, 2010, in Parkland, Maryland. At his passing, this chalkboard champion was remembered fondly by his former students. “He always pushed his students to be their best, because he knew we were capable of it, even when we didn’t,” remembered former student Jennifer Wallace. “He was kind, funny, and stern when he needed to be,” she said. Others agree. “As a senior in high school he would allow me to teach his beginner acting class now and then,” commented former student Jessica Wentling. “He gave to me the love of teaching, a passion that I intend to continue pursuing,” she concluded.

Harry Dame: Veteran Educator and Talented Coach

Harry A. Dame, 1920-1921

Harry A. Dame, 1920-1921

In American history, there are many notable examples of talented and dedicated educators who make their mark on the profession. This is certainly the case of Harry Dame, a public high school teacher who made his biggest mark as an athletic coach.

Harry Dame was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. As a youngster, he attended Lynn Classical High School, graduating in 1898. After his graduation, he enrolled in Springfield Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he played quarterback for the football team. Harry completed his college studies in 1900, and then he enrolled in courses at both Tufts College in Medford, Massachusetts, and Boston University.

After earning his college degree, Harry accepted his first teaching position as an athletic director at Waltham High School, in Waltham, Massachusets. Four years later Harry transferred to  the Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, where he coached football and baseball. Some time later, he was hired to teach mathematics at nearby Everett High School. In 1909, Harry left Everett to return Waltham High School. In addition to serving as the athletic director, the veteran educator coached football and basketball.

Under Harry’s expert coaching, Waltham High’s football team finished the season undefeated in 1915. Imagine his amazement when the team was pitted against Harry’s former school, Everett High School, for the right to play Central High School in Detroit for the National Scholastic Football Championship. Unfortunately, Everett defeated Waltham 6–0 before a crowd of 12,000 spectators, an record for attendance at a high school football game in Massachusetts at the time.

Later that same year, Harry accepted a position as physical education teacher at Lynn English High School in Lynn, Massachusetts. There Harry led his football team in play against an All-Stars team composed of college and former high school players. To Harry’s dismay, the Waltham team won the game with a score of 24–6.

In the summer of 1917, when World War I was in full swing, Harry took a group of students from Lynn English to work on Sorosis Military Farm in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as part of an on-the-job program developed by an executive from the A. E. Little Co., who was also the owner of the farm. The program combined farm work with military training in an effort to increase the boys’ interest in farm work, provide them with military instruction, and assist in war production. Harry resigned from Lynn English on September 25, 1917.

From 1919 to 1922, Harry was employed as the athletic director and a coach at Western Reserve University. In addition, the veteran educator coached baseball from 1919 to 1920, basketball from 1919 to 1922, football from 1919 to 1921, and track from 1919 to 1920. 

Harry later worked at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, until his retirement in 1928.

This chalkboard champion passed away in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 7, 1933.

Spanish Teacher Jose Ferrer Canales: A Puerto Rican Chalkboard Champion

canales 2The teaching profession abounds with talented and dedicated educators who have devoted their entire lives to their practice. Such is certainly the case with Jose Ferrer Canales, a high school Spanish teacher from Puerto Rico who was also an accomplished journalist, essayist, and political activist.

Jose was born in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 18, 1913, into an impoverished, working-class family. As a youngster, he attended Pedro G. Boyco Elementary School, and as a teenager, he graduated from Central Superior High School. Because of his family’s poverty, Jose worked to help support his family, even though he was still in school.

After his high school graduation, Jose enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, completing the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in 1937. In 1944, he earned his MA in Arts. Jose accepted his first teaching position at a high school in Humacao, where he taught Spanish from 1937 to 1943. Once he earned his master’s degree, Jose was awarded a grant to continue his studies in Spanish and Latin American literature at Columbia University in New York City. While in New York, Jose taught Spanish at Hunter College.

In 1946, the veteran educator returned to his home island where he accepted a position in the Department of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. There he became actively involved in the island’s pro-independence movement. In 1949, when he was fired from the university because of his political activities, he relocated to the United States, where he taught at universities in Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, DC. After some years, Jose moved to Mexico, where he attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico, earning his PhD in Letters in 1952. In 1963, Jose was able to once again return to his home island and his position at the University of Puerto Rico. He pursued contributions to the field of education and the publication of numerous essays and journal articles until his retirement in 1983.

Because of his lengthy and distinguished career, Jose earned several prestigious honors. He was given the Journalist Prize from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in 1990. He was honored with the Prize of Honor from the Puerto Rican Athenaeum in 1994. He was also named the Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Humanities Foundation in 1997.

This chalkboard champion passed away of natural causes on July 20, 2005, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. He was 91 years old. He is interred at Villa Palmaeras Cemetery in Puerto Rico.

Leonard Covello Offers Great Insights Into Pluralism in Education

9781592135219_p0_v1_s260x420[1]Here’s a great book for anyone who is interested in progressive education or pluralism in education: Leonard Covello and the making of Benjamin Franklin High School: Education as if Citizenship Mattered. The authors are Michael C. Johanek and John L. Puckett.

Leonard Covello came to the United States in 1896 as a nine-year-old Italian immigrant. Despite immense cultural and economic pressures at home, Leonard wanted to get an education. As an adult, he analyzed the cultural and economic pressures he faced as a child and teen, which were common in Italian immigrant households at that time. He realized that Italian parents viewed the school as a wedge between their children and the family. He recognized the pressure even the youngest Italian children faced to go out and get a job rather than succeed in school. His answer? Involve the parents in the school, and involve the students in the community. The result was New York’s Benjamin Franklin High School, a truly innovative marriage of school and home. Lots of lessons in this story are relevant even in today’s times, especially for school personnel who are clamoring for more involvement from parents in the school system.

You can find this eye-opening book on at the Leonard Covello link. You can also read the abbreviated version of Leonard Covello’s life story in my first book Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Remarkable Teachers Who Educated America’s Disenfranchised Students.

High School Teacher Jessie Redmon Vauset: She Influenced the Harlem Renaissance

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationMany talented educators have earned renown in fields other than the teaching profession. Such is certainly the case with Jessie Redmon Fauset, a high school Latin and French teacher from New Jersey.

Jessie was born in Fredericksville, Camden County, New Jersey, on April 27, 1882. although she was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Annie Seamon Fauset. When she was just a child, her mother passed away and her father remarried. Jessie’s father was not wealthy, but he instilled in all his children the great importance of education.

As a youngster, Jessie attended the highly-respected Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she may have been the only African American student in her class. Once she graduated, she wanted to enroll at prestigious Bryn Mawr College. Unfortunately, the institution was reluctant to accept its first African American student, and instead offered to assist Jessie in acquiring a scholarship to Cornell University. Jessie excelled at Cornell, and so she was invited to join the distinguished academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her bachelors’s degree in classical languages in 1905, and later earned her master’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.

Even though Jessie had earned a superior college education, her race prevented her from gaining a job as a teacher in Philadelphia. Instead, she accepted teaching positions first in Baltimore, Maryland, and then in Washington, DC, where she taught French and Latin at Dunbar High School.

In 1912, while still teaching, Jessie began to submit reviews, essays, poems, and short stories to The Crisis, a magazine for African American readers founded and edited by author and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. Seven years later, DuBois persuaded the talented educator to become the publication’s literary editor. Jessie did this work during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of prolific artistic output within the black community. As the magazine’s editor, Jessie encouraged and influenced a number of up-and-coming writers, including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay. She also continued to write her own pieces for the magazine. In addition to her work at The Crisis, Jessie also served as co-editor for The Brownies’ Book, which was published monthly from 1920 to 1921. The goal of the publication was to teach African American children about their heritage, information the former educator had fervently wished for throughout her own childhood.

After reading an inaccurate depiction of African Americans in a book written by a white author, Jessie became inspired to write her own novel. Her first book, There Is Confusion (1924), portrayed black characters in a middle-class setting. It was an unusual choice for the time, which made it more difficult for Jessie to find a publisher. In 1926, Jessie left her position at The Crisis in 1926 and looked for work in the publishing field, even offering to work from home so that her race wouldn’t be a barrier. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find enough work to support herself.

To make ends meet, Jessie returned to teaching, accepting a position at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City. James Baldwin, the acclaimed African American novelist and playwright, may have been one of her students there. Jessie was employed in the New York school system until 1944. During her New York years, Jessie wrote three more novels: Plum Bun (1929), The Chinaberry Tree (1931), and Comedy: American Style (1933). Jessie’s primarily upper-class characters continued to deal with the themes of prejudice, limited opportunities, and cultural compromises. Because her last two novels were less successful than her previous works, Jessie’s extensive writing output decreased.

In 1929, Jessie fell in love and married businessman Herbert Harris. She was 47 years old at the time. The couple made their home in Montclair, New Jersey. They lived there until 1958, when Herbert passed away. After her husband’s death, Jessie returned to Philadelphia, where she died on April 30, 1961, a victim of heart disease. She was 79 years old.