In Praise of Teachers

Professor Joe Saltzman of the University of Southern California tells an inspiring story.

In receiving the national Teacher of the Year award at our annual conference in St. Louis, Saltzman dedicated the award to his high school journalism teacher, Ted Tajima. This is how Saltzman tells the story:

“In 1955, I was a junior, and he found me standing in the hallway crying my eyes out. He asked me what was the matter. I told him that the high school counselor just told me I wasn’t college material and that I should follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a window cleaner. My dream of being the first person in my family to go to college was over.

With USC's Joe Saltzman

“Ted was furious and went to see that high school counselor. When he came back, he told me that together, we would work to get me into the best school of journalism on the West Coast — the University of Southern California — and with a scholarship as well. And he made it happen. If it weren’t for Ted, I probably would have ended up a window cleaner.

“When I wonder why I’ve spent the last 44 years teaching at USC, I think back to Ted. I know I became a teacher because of his influence on me. I wanted to do for future journalists what he had done for me.”

Tajima died in February 2011, shortly before Saltzman and I were informed that we would be receiving the Teacher and Administrator of the Year awards, respectively, from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

It was an honor to stand with Joe at the awards ceremony this summer. He donated his $10,000 prize to a nonprofit dedicated to helping ill children, and my prize went to help Elon Communications students needing financial support to stay in school.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Faculty, People, Teaching

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