I always figured I was unteachable because learning has never been my strongest skill. My grades would tell you otherwise, but the reality is that before this September, I was indeed unteachable. The teachers were not failing at their job; I was failing at mine. My mentality was to earn a grade instead of really learning the material. In September, my math teacher, Kevin Ehly, figured out my problem. He realized I was able to get by using a method many students use – acting like I understood until the teacher gave me the answers. This allowed me to succeed, but I was failing at learning and developing my mind.
The first thing Mr. Ehly did was allow me to fail. I know that sounds harsh, but he wanted me to learn the lesson of punctuality and being present. I struggled to be on time and pay attention in class. Perhaps I was cocky about being able to pass without being there, or maybe it was pure laziness. Regardless of the reason, Mr. Ehly taught me that I would no longer be able to slack off without consequences. If I came to class late, he would often ignore me or ask me if I was a student in his class. The one thing I hate most in this world is to be ignored. As my anger built, I decided to come to class on time. In return, Mr. Ehly gave me the acknowledgment I needed and praised my work.
His lessons didn’t stop there. The next step was to help me learn instead of just giving me the answers. He noticed that a lot of his students had a similar aversion to learning, so he encouraged independent work instead of a passive learning strategy in which the teacher lectures and the students listen and take notes. It sounds great, but doesn’t always work well. Mr. Ehly taught us how to work diligently, not toward a grade but toward learning helpful tools for the future.
Mr. Ehly pushed me to a limit I did not know existed. He taught me the ways of an ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates: thinking and questioning. He would often give us an incorrect answer and make us explain why it was wrong. When we answered a problem, he would question us until we sometimes doubted ourselves. He challenged us not to accept being told we’re wrong when we have evidence that we are correct. Mr. Ehly also encouraged us not to be afraid to ask questions or contradict authority.
He is a math teacher who taught me the philosophy of Socrates, geometry, common sense, and the importance of punctuality all at once. He is a special individual because he upsets you with the questions he asks in response to your questions, but by doing this you actually get your answer. He also makes time in his busy life to attend every school event in order to support his students.
Kevin Ehly is indeed a special educator and person. He makes you ask questions. He uses sarcasm and questioning to help you realize your own truth. He is a person who makes hard geometry problems so much easier. A person who can teach you about life through a math problem is one of the greatest educators I have come across.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.