My Greatest Teacher

As I look back through the years, I’d certainly say I was pretty fortunate to have a lot of great teachers / instructors in my life. Here are a few and why they impacted me profoundly:

NJROTC SealColonel Phillip Shaw, USMC Ret., my NJROTC instructor in high school…he was stern and tough but also caring and compassionate. When I entered into the NJROTC program, I had no idea what to expect…we had rigorous physical fitness requirements, we had drills, we shot firearms in the range, all toward a greater goal of becoming a more well-rounded and adjusted person. I remember in one of our rigorous physical fitness tests, we were required to run a mile or two; as a young lady growing up I experienced some exercise induced asthma, and as a result running was quite a challenge for me. During this one particular exam, I remember running by the “time line” and Col. Shaw was yelling at me to stop running (he could see how red my face was getting) and walk…but I was determined to earn the physical fitness ribbon that time—and it was always the run that kept me from achieving it. I ended up earning it that time! It may have been because the colonel was yelling at me, perhaps for other reasons.  I can remember vividly when graduation day rolled around, when I went to say goodbye to the colonel, it was the one that made me cry. He really impacted me profoundly and I will always remember him for that. We still exchange Christmas cards to this day—which I look forward to and enjoy.

200px-Loyolauniversitycrest At Loyola University of Chicago, I had several professors who stood out…but none more than Dr. David Struckhoff—he was one of my criminology instructors and I recall distinctly having to select a topic for my term paper and 30-minute oral presentation on a serial killer to profile and examine and explain why we thought they what they did. When I let Dr. Struckhoff know that my intention was to write about John Wayne Gacy (a serial killer notorious in the Chicago area), he pulled me aside after class and we had a discussion about his work with Gacy and that he had visited him before his execution. He was intrigued by my selection and mentioned something to the effect of he’d be keeping an eye on me for this presentation. I was feeling pretty intense about this experience and wasn’t sure I would hold up to Dr. Struckhoff’s critical examination of what I put forth in my presentation. I spent laborious hours and hours into my research, I read several books, papers and anything I could get my hands on for this project. The day of my presentation came and I was quite nervous…I began by recanting how Gacy found his victims and the rituals he went through with each one before killing them.

GacyIt went incredibly well—I could tell by the audience reaction: I had half of the classroom ready to vomit while the other half was leaning forward in eager anticipation of the next detail. What I couldn’t tell, was how it landed with Dr. Struckhoff.  It came later in my grade: A-! I was so proud! I later ended up doing an internship for a sociology project—I interned with a public defender for about a year and traveled down state, by train (about a 3-hour journey), to the Joliet State Penitentiary and visited death row inmates who were clients of the firm where I interned. That’s another whole story for a different blog post…

DrStruckhoffUpon writing this blog post, I did a quick Google search to see if I could find a photo of Dr. Struckhoff for this post, which I did find (to the left). I also discovered that he passed away in 2009…this news really broke my heart–he was such a fun instructor and a great person, full of life and so much more! You will be missed, Dr. Struckhoff.

Who are your favorites? I’d love to hear about them.

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