Bad Attitudes, a magazine of culture, politics, art, literature, 
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Leave No Teacher Behind


Jerome Doolittle

Marc A. Anderson was buried March 11 in Bushnell National Cemetery in Tampa, aged thirty. Army Specialist Anderson, of the First Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was one of eight Americans killed in Operation Anaconda.

Specialist Anderson had not set out to be a soldier.

Back home in Alliance, Ohio, Anderson played football and was a champion shot putter. He was also in the National Honor Society.

He began college in Case Western University, transferring to Florida State University after two years. There he continued to put the shot, and was named the university’s top male athlete in his senior year. He was graduated in 1995 with a 4.0 grade average and deeply in debt from student loans.

The New York Times reports:

“He took a job teaching seventh and eighth grade math at the Fort Myers Middle Academy, a magnet school in a blighted neighborhood. One of his students in a pre-algebra class was Juliann Reaves, a seventh grader who hated math.

“Early in the term, Mr. Anderson noticed that she was having trouble, Ms. Reaves said, and he offered extra tutoring to her and other students. He would show up at school an hour before the first bell bearing bagels, donuts and orange juice, for anyone hungry to learn.

“‘He took everything one step at a time, and he didn’t rush us,’ Ms. Reaves said. ‘He was the greatest math teacher I ever had.’

“Still, Mr. Anderson was not entirely happy. His salary was less than $30,000, and he was deducting $550 from his monthly check to pay down $45,000 in student loans. He shared a two-bedroom apartment with another teacher, drove a used car, and felt so crowded financially that he could not envision marriage.

“When he was in his third year of teaching, an Army recruiter told him that if he enlisted, the military would pay off his college loans, a proposal he found attractive.”

When he resigned from Fort Myers Middle Academy in 1999, according to a fellow teacher, Catherine Kane, he did so in hopes that he would be able to return to teaching someday. “On a teacher’s salary, he couldn’t make it,” she told The Tampa Tribune. “He was a born teacher.”

There is nothing extraordinary in this story, except that we see nothing extraordinary in it. Still, isn’t it perhaps just a little odd -- a little sad, even -- that the federal government’s only program for paying off the student loans of a born teacher should turn out to be funded by the Pentagon?

March, 2002


Copyright © 2004 by Jerome Doolittle