Nominated by classroom student, Courtney Ryman:
Advanced Placement United States History is a rigorous and time consuming subject for any teacher to juggle much less one that has to balance instructing five additional courses with class sizes on the rise. At Milwaukie High School, the staff and student body contrast their contemporaries from other schools. The Milwaukie Mustang is embodied in every living, breathing person that walks through the Maroon and Gold hallways. Among this dedicated and tireless staff, one stands apart for his demonstrated behavior of discipline, passion for his profession, and a work ethic that seems to have no foreseeable end. Mr. Lee is a History teacher at Milwaukie High School and one of the best teachers that I have had during my educational career. As my Advanced Placement United States History teacher, Mr. Lee amazes me every day. He somehow manages to fluidly instruct his students who strive to achieve great goals that are prevalent among those taking a college credit qualifying class. As per usual, students who choose to be on the AP track take their courses very seriously; Mr. Lee injects fun and curiosity into our minds and into our love of History. I have found that Mr. Lee goes out of his way for his students, if you don’t understand something or if you need extra assistance, he never turns you away. He cares about the educational experience all of his students. Mr. Lee genuinely cares about us as students; he wants to see us succeed but not just by giving us the answer. He wants to prepare us to make that journey into the world as successful adults. Brandon Kneebone is a Junior at Milwaukie High School and says, “admiration and inspiration are on the forefront of everyone’s mind when they experience the feverous dedication that Mr. Lee demonstrates towards his subject. He has personally inspired me to persevere even when obstacles stand in your way. Mr. Lee frankly needs to be, and is, a motivational inspirationalist. His students can get down on their luck when they, sometimes for the first time receive their graded AP US History test only to see that it has been marked with a B, C, D, or even F. These students strive for the best and must constantly struggle in a never-ending battle with their 1,100 pages plus textbook, despite this Mr. Lee coaches us to always believe in our educational ability and to aim for improvement. As a seasoned veteran, Mr. Lee has begun his 18th year as an educator and his 17th year at MHS. Mr. Lee was one of the Milwaukie High School baseball coaches for many years and he was our Athletic Director at one point. In everything he does, he brings a complete level of discipline, passion, and work ethic to the table."
Congratulations Dan, from all of us at K103!
What inspired you to become an educator?
A combination of things, really. My parents both placed a high value on education and were involved in my schooling. I don't remember a time when I didn't like school. I also had a number of teachers from Ms. Cogswell (1st grade, Sunnyside Elementary) all the way to Donna Kruse (Experimental Psych, Oregon State University) who were not only able to make complicated things seem simple, but made learning fun and gave me an appreciation for how powerful knowledge is. They, as well as many others, inspired me to try to do the same.
What do you like most about teaching?
Each day is a different. Even if I am teaching something I have taught many times before, every student brings a new way of thinking into the classroom which puts a fresh perspective into each day. I like being able to have long-term goals and targets to reach, but knowing that the path to reach those goals can vary widely from year to year, class to class, and student to student makes my work interesting and challenging. I also like keeping up with students after they go off to college and beyond. Talking with ex-students who have their own homes, careers and families is pretty incredible.
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
Obviously the education system is in a constant state change, workloads have increased, and funding is always an issue, but what's important is the relationships that students have with their school and the people in it. That has always been a constant, and I think it always will be. What I think has changed more than anything is probably me. After 18 years, I have had had the experience of working with so many amazing teachers and students, and each of them have impacted me in some way. They have taught me as much as I have taught them, so I am a much different (and hopefully better) teacher now than when I first started.
What would you like parents to know about your job?
People in schools work really hard, teacher or otherwise. Much of the work teachers do isn't always visible, but the teachers I have worked with are in a constantly trying to perfect their craft. We also really love our job and the teachers I know wouldn't want to do anything else. It is a difficult, but very rewarding job. I would also want parents to know that teachers want to work together with parents so you should never hesitate to talk the teachers in your students school even when there isn't a specific issue that needs to be addressed. Just keeping in touch with each other make everything work so much better.
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
One of my favorite stories is from just this school year and is still ongoing. This is my first year teaching AP History, which is a very difficult class. The amount of outside work and independent study required to be successful is unlike anything most students have experienced so far. At the start of the year, I was concerned about finding the right balance of pushing just hard enough to keep things very challenging, but not getting to the point of discouraging. At first, I think there was a little bit of shock on the part of the students and it took awhile for them to get the hang of the pace and difficulty of the work. Little by little, we started to get the hang of things and what impressed me more than anything is how none of the student ever gave up. They responded to the challenge of AP by raising their game, working harder than they probably thought they could and at the half way point of the year, they have accomplished things that make me (and hopefully them) very proud. I started the 2nd half of the year by telling them we had to go even faster, which I know was probably not what they were hoping to hear. However, I also now know that they will all respond to the challenge and find ways to succeed. It is the kind of thing that teachers have the unique opportunity to experience; young people doing more than they ever thought they could and taking those important steps towards the next phase of their lives.