Rolling Meadows High School teacher Art Peekel checked his e- mail last year, delighted to see a message from a former student who found him via the high school's Web site.
The young lady thanked him for being an influential role model and for helping her discover her calling: teaching social studies in a California high school.
"She recalled my approach to teaching," says Peekel, a 13-year RMHS social sciences teacher. "She said she keeps in mind the importance of caring about the kids and meeting their needs outside of the classroom - their social concerns as well as their intellectual needs.
"To see that teaching is being carried on by those who you taught, that's pretty exciting," said the Palatine resident.
Because the National PTA has designated this week as Teacher Appreciation Week, Peekel and two other RMHS teachers share cherished stories of student appreciation.
Peekel recalls a student who struggled through school a few years ago.
Problems at home, work and life in general created challenges. Guidance and direction from Peekel and other staff members helped the student overcome the obstacles and graduate. The young man now holds two full-time jobs, but returns regularly to his old school.
"He feels he has a calling to speak to students about his experience and try to influence them to think about the choices they make in regard to drugs, alcohol and their education," says Peekel. "From his own experience, he talks very movingly, very directly, honestly and openly with the students. He has an incredible effect on students."
"He is always very careful to thank his counselor, other teachers and myself, not only for what we did for him," says Peekel, "but also for giving him the opportunity to come back and talk with students."
Christopher Buti, in his first year as Meadows' director of bands, sees students gain confidence through music. As a first-year band/choir director at another high school nine years ago, he inherited a student on the verge of quitting the music program. Instead, under Buti's guidance, she became a drum major, choir soloist and active in musicals.
She kept in touch with Buti, grateful for his ongoing support, as she became a college music major.
In Buti's final year at that school, the administration said he could hire a part-time assistant because music program enrollment had mushroomed. …