Student praises journalism teacher for ability to connect

May 16, 2012 

When I applied to be a part of our school newspaper, The Blazer, I expected to work. I expected long hours and frustrations. I expected awkward interviews and fast-approaching deadlines. What I didn’t expect was how much I would grow to love the people I spent sixth period with everyday.

I’m writing this column for the sole purpose of thanking our journalism teacher, Mr. Daniel Hardebeck. He’s retiring after 20 years of teaching us crazy kids. Bless his heart. It takes a special kind of man to keep his cool when 35 teenagers are running around trying to put a paper together.

In the two years I’ve been on staff, I have never heard him yell. Sure, he gets angry, and I’m sure there are times when he’d like to go all Godzilla on us, but he never does.

He might roll his eyes or smack his forehead, but he always forgives our stupidity, just as we forgive his fashion sense.

Hardebeck is one of those teachers that you think about later in life and wish you would have thanked when you had the chance.

To begin on a superficial level, he’s good at his job. He oversees a nationally ranked newspaper. He knows where to put commas, how to spell words such as “connoisseur,” and what photos will make kids actually read the stories we write.

He knows when to intervene and when to let the antics unfold, and he knows how to pick kids for our staff who are naturally motivated to do their best work.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is how much we love him. Hardebeck gets kids. It’s weird really how in tune he is, when honestly I don’t even think we know what we’re thinking.

He makes us laugh when we want to cry, and always has a nice word (or a sarcastic comment) for any situation in which you really just need a friend. He inspires us simply by being awesome.

No one wants to disappoint Hardebeck. We want praise from the wise one and are willing to break our backs in order to achieve the level of performance we know he expects.

Yet, (and I realize I sound like I’m contradicting myself, but I’m not, and even if I was, this is my column, so chill) Hardebeck doesn’t judge. Every single student in my journalism class is nuts. Really. And not like the lovable cashew kind, but the variety tub at Costco kind of eccentric.

We come from all sorts of different places, and we bring with us baggage and gossip and tears, and he just accepts it. He has built some kind of bond with every student that comes through his door, and eventually through some sort of voodoo magic, he makes us all like each other.

When I was accepted into journalism, I expected the drama. I never expected to form such deep friendships.Hardebeck brings out the best in us, and I know that I’m a better person for having known him.

Yes, he’s taught me how to quote correctly, and I’ve learned that I can make his eyes pop out of his head if I use the wrong “too” or “then.” But he has taught my friends and me so much more than how to make a newspaper. He taught us how to make a life.

I’ve learned to laugh, struggle, cry, accept, forgive, love, apologize and believe that I can actually make a difference in this world of nuts.

So thank you Mr. Hardebeck, and please understand that retiring from The Blazer doesn’t mean we’ll forget about you. And, with the advent of Facebook, you’ll never get rid of us. Hooray for social media!

Marti Schodt is a student at Timberline High School. She may be reached at marthaJane004@aol.com.

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