When I was in the sixth grade I was accepted into the Summer of Learning program at Providence St. Mel in Chicago. This meant that I had the opportunity to attend summer camp in the North Woods of Wisconsin for seven weeks and my family didn’t have to pay (we couldn’t have come close). However, the idea of summer camp was a little terrifying to me as I couldn’t swim a lick and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Somehow my teacher, Ms. Berkowitz, got wind of me not being able to swim and she offered to teach me. She traveled several times from the North of the city to the South Side YMCA where she would hold my back trying to teach me to float, “You have to breathe Donnie. Breathe.” I went to Camp Highlands that summer and seven more summers after that, becoming a counselor. Highlands always said it had a hidden agenda of crafting campers to become teachers, but I think it was my experience with Ms. Berkowitz and so many other great teachers I’ve had in my path that inspired me to teach history and learn history with young people. I believe it is crucial that teachers not focus on what happens in or outside of the classroom so much, but more on what they think about the young people they are working with. It is imperative to not fear youth, to remember your own youth, and to be okay with not knowing what to do next or what to say, but having faith in the idea that whatever it is – you will do it WITH your students because you are all learning together. So, thank you Ms. Berkowitz for not being afraid to be a compassionate human being with a warm heart, in other words, a good teacher.

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