March 01, 1990 2 min read

I Bet He Didn’t Forget His Permission Slip

Cory Gillmer (right, in sunglasses) is only 12 years old, but already he has journeyed to the ends of the earth. Cory, a 6th grader at Seatack Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Va., represented the United States on a two-week expedition to Antarctica with ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his son, Jean-Michel. He was one of six children--each from a different continent-- selected for the expedition.

The purpose of the mission, according to the Cousteau Society, was to “demonstrate symbolically that this vast white land belongs to the future.’' Cory and his young colleagues flew with the Cousteaus to Punta Arenas, Chile, then boarded a ship for the three-day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. There, the group visited research bases and observed divers exploring and filming the environmental damage caused by a recent oil spill.

In Other Words, Shut Up

Milwaukee teacher Denise O’Donnell (below) never imagined that writing a letter to her superintendent would land her in the center of controversy. O’Donnell, a social studies and reading teacher at Bell Middle School, wrote Superintendent Robert Peterkin to tell him that new teachers at her school needed more support and that teachers were being asked to lower their standards to reduce the student failure rate. “Academic excellence needs to be raised, not just the grade point average,’' she wrote. Instead of hearing from Peterkin, O’Donnell received a scolding from her principal, Kenneth Holt: “Bypassing a channel [of communication] is a usurpation of the authority of the superior who was bypassed, and is therefore INSUBORDINATION.’' He says the allegations O’Donnell raised are “totally unfounded,’' and that she skirted grievance procedures spelled out in her contract. But O’Donnell, 25, insists that she had raised her concerns--both in a building committee meeting and in private with Holt--and that she wrote Peterkin “out of honest frustration.’' She is looking for another job.

Secondhand Rows

Two years ago, Marilyn Nemzer (above left), a former teacher in Novato, Calif., organized a “giveaway’’ to collect used books from some folks and give them to others--especially teachers. But when a school donated the books it had planned to discard and several others quickly followed suit, the one-time event became an ongoing service called The Book Exchange. Before long, the service outgrew its garage headquarters, and the U.S. Defense Department made a building available. “There are so many schools that have books they don’t need and so many schools that need books they can’t afford,’' says Nemzer, who also gives books to prisons and nonprofit organizations. Orders for books come from across the nation. “We’ll give books to anyone who walks in--except used-book sellers,’' she says. Call (415) 883-BOOK.

--Lisa Wolcott

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as People