Mr. Warren Otto was my tenth grade geometry teacher. I have to admit that I was a handful. My father was the high school principal, which meant that I often got away with less-than-perfect behavior. Mr. Otto, however, always demanded the best of all of his students. He realized within two weeks of the term that my behavior was a symptom of not being challenged by the material. He decided that I needed a more rigorous course.
My father was reluctant; he knew the headaches involved with shifting a student’s schedule once the term had begun, which required a lot of effort in the pre-computer era. Mr. Otto insisted, convincing my father—his boss—to make the change. Mr. Otto was right. Being placed in a more demanding geometry class challenged me to achieve things I didn’t know I could do. Mr. Otto’s rigor and high expectations garnered from me and other students respect and admiration.
As editor, I dedicated our high school annual to Mr. “Worn Auto.” I still think of him as my high school hero. He is also a steadfast exemplar of what a teacher truly is: An advocate for each and every student. I would like to thank Mr. Otto for his example, and the millions of American teachers who believe in the abilities of their students and commit their talents and energy to helping each student reach his or her fullest potential.
Alexa Posny is the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education.
Ed. note: This post is part of an ongoing series of ED staff thanking teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.