July Top Notch Teacher

Published On: Jul 05 2011 08:37:02 AM CDT

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- With summer in full swing, many students aren't thinking too much about school.

July's Top Notch Teacher has a teaching style that can bring even the "Sheepish" children out of their shells and into the classroom.

Learning and understanding directions can be difficult. Doing it in a foreign language can be an even bigger challenge.

Aquinas Middle and High School French teacher Mr. Drake is guiding his students through a French lesson on directions, which can be an uphill battle for some.

"Foreign language brings out issues of frustration. I can't think of it right away. What do I say, and that intimidation is good because when they get to a foreign culture they have, if I can't remember the word or the expression, I can think of something else and still survive," said Michael Drake.

And while some might say teaching is a little like herding sheep as students sometimes are going in all different directions and teachers are working to get them focused on the same path, Mr. Drake says after 43 years in education he can't imagine being anything other than a shepherd to these students. "There's all kinds of people out there that keep having nice children. If people were having braty, self-serving, know-it-all kids I could have retired long ago. But gosh, it's so much fun."

It probably won't surprise you to hear his students are enjoying themselves as well. "He's just really fun and he has a different way of teaching us," said Aquinas High School Freshman, Grace Riley.
Mr. Drake admits, "Things tend to come alive here and I have multiple personalities....Various people pop out of me from time to time." "Well, he likes to dance," said Riley.

"I could be a wicked old man or a witch or I have a feminine sides to me too. My voices change," said Mr. Drake"

Voices which are sometimes even given to stuffed sheep in the classroom. "They come alive. They do speak occasionally." All in an effort to teach and guide his own. "Well they're just sometimes placed in different areas around the room and just talked to them," said Riley.
"You need variety. You need to have a sense of humor. You need to read what kind of mood they're at on a particular day for how far you can go with certain things....Even people our age, there is a child alive and well in each one of us. So, it's just a silly lamb, but it relaxes them," said Mr. Drake.

And once students are relaxed and engaged, teachers like Mr. Drake can lead them in the direction of success.

Mr. Drake says teaching takes dedication and a lot of love. And, in his words, there are many teachers in our area just like him.