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Influential Educators

This year's Teens to Watch pick their favorite teachers

Michael Walsh of Wilton High School

Photographs Contributed

(page 1 of 3)

The September 2014 issue of Westport Weston & Wilton Magazine features three extraordinary local teens; Cooper Pellaton, Katherine Zhou, and Ross Wollman. Since we’re officially in back to back-to-school mode, we wanted to know which educators inspired them to excel or influenced the way they approach the world.   Read on to discover what makes these teachers as remarkable as the students they teach.

Michael Walsh

(English, Wilton High School) nominated by Cooper Pellaton

How long have you been teaching?  

I have been teaching English for sixteen years, fourteen of them at Wilton High School.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in education? 

Teaching is enjoyable because I discuss literature with people fourteen- to eighteen-years old, by-and-large a sublime pursuit.

What is the most challenging aspect of teaching? The most enjoyable?

The whole challenge of teaching is motivating the students; the plays, poems, and prose compel them if they’re open, so the teacher’s task is to bring immediacy to new materials about which a significant segment of the class might be indifferent. Fitzgerald has remained largely unchanged during the past sixteen years, but my students’ and my cultural contexts have changed dramatically.

Students’ realizations are the most gratifying experiences of teaching. Paradoxically, when a student arrives at an understanding through her own efforts, and the teacher becomes inessential, he has done his job well. For that reason, teaching is equally art, science, and luck.

What role do you believe teachers have as mentors?

As a mentor I must make my students uncomfortable by being completely authentic. They detect insincerity unerringly, so the best policy is candor.

A few thoughts about Cooper…

Cooper's inquisitiveness sets him apart from his peers. He listens to everyone and everything, which is remarkable, and then he comments, integrating the most recent point or contention into his statement. Though reserved, his enthusiasm is unmistakable as a result of his quick, thoughtful responses. He also has a subtle and dry sense of humor which compels me to think about his ironic observations hours afterward.