The relationship between a teacher and student is a complicated equation, built with mutual respect and responsibility. When the equation is balanced, the result is a reciprocal benefit for both the teacher and student, a benefit that quite often stands the test of time.
Such is the relationship between retired Montezuma-Cortez High School math teacher Tom Casey and Lee Anderegg, an M-CHS graduate.
In February, Anderegg, a senior at Stanford University, was informed he was selected as a recipient of the J.E. Wallace Sterling Scholastic Award. The award is given to the top seniors in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford. Recipients of the award are given the opportunity to invite a former teacher to the April 30 awards luncheon, highlighting the influence of that person in their lives. Anderegg immediately thought of Casey.
I first had Mr. Casey for advanced algebra my sophomore year, then I also had him all of junior year for calculus, Anderegg said. It was really wonderful because junior year I was able to have class with him for 90 minutes a day every day for a year. That really allowed me to really get into the subject and really get to know Mr. Casey better.
From their first interaction, Casey knew Anderegg was a unique student.
Hes a kid with an incredible capacity academically, he said.
Casey taught math at the high school level for 34 years before he retired from M-CHS in 2009. During that time, he taught many different math courses, from the lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs, he said.
During his time teaching, he worked hard to make his lessons applicable to the students sitting in his classroom. Many still remember Caseys motto, Math is everywhere.
I think it was a combination of factors that made him such an excellent teacher, Anderegg said. First being that Mr. Casey just generally was really passionate for math and showing other people how cool math is, and that set up a good foundation for all the students in his class. But on top of that, Mr. Casey is just very dynamic and he related well with students and he naturally established these personal connections. I really cant do Mr. Casey justice.
Anderegg said students in Caseys class often accidentally learned more math concepts than they intended simply because of their relationship with the teacher.
A teachers largest responsibility is to prepare students for the world beyond the classroom. It was a responsibility Casey took seriously during his time in the classroom.
I think teaching is a balancing act, he said. I see high school teachers in particular as the important link between a kids going from childhood into adulthood. I think that as a teacher you have to define yourself and be well-defined yourself and project that. You have to know who you are.
Anderegg said his academic success at college is due in part to excellent teachers like Casey.
When I came to Stanford, in my freshman dorm probably 60 percent of the students came from really prestigious college prep schools and private high schools and then the rest came from really high-quality magnet public schools, he said. But I never once felt like I lacked anything in terms of education among my peers.
The opportunity Anderegg now has to publicly recognize one of the teachers who laid his academic foundation is as important to him as the prestigious award he will receive from the university.
I think it is a really wonderful opportunity, an opportunity I wish were more prevalent, he said. I just have never been able to help feeling incredibly blessed by having been influenced by a lot of wonderful people. This is a wonderful chance to be able to acknowledge that and say I have received this incredible education and really incredible support from Cortez, Colo. The upbringing that I received in Cortez is a huge part of who I am now.
Casey will attend the awards luncheon with Anderegg on Saturday, April 30. Stanford University is covering the cost of the trip. For his part, Casey said being remembered and recognized by a former student in such a public way is the capstone on his career.
It is the ultimate compliment, he said. It validates all Ive done for 34 years, and it the ultimate honor as far as Im concerned. This is the culmination of a lot of my efforts.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at firstname.lastname@example.org.