Since 2017, Charter School Capital has held an annual essay contest celebrating exceptional teachers. We call it the Dewey Awards, in celebration of Mr. Richard Dewey – a teacher who provided exceptional mentorship to our founder and CEO Stuart Ellis. Every year, we get a brilliant selection of stories written by students from charter schools all over the nation. This year’s winners are featured here. But each of these stories is worth sharing.
This week, we bring you a story written by Bevin Theodore, from The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts. The piece is about his teacher Mr. Marc Del Rossi, at Voorhees Middle School.
It has been said that people fear public speaking more than death. Combine that fear with an introverted nature and a hearty dose of middle school awkwardness, and you get a clear picture of my eighth-grade self. I rarely even raised my hand in class, so I would have done anything to avoid standing in front of a room and expounding on a topic.
For years, I successfully stayed out of the spotlight, content to let my more gregarious peers command the podium. And then I walked into Marc Del Rossi’s language arts classroom. As he eagerly talked about the public speaking opportunities we would have in his course, I sank in my chair, hoping perhaps he would overlook me when doling out speech assignments.
I would love to say I became comfortable with public speaking that year. In actuality, it never got easier for me. Sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, and shaking voice were the hallmarks of my speaking attempts. I was terrified, and I hated every minute of it. But as I moved through high school and college and ventured into the working world, I realized Mr. Del Rossi had planted a seed. I did not enjoy public speaking, but I could hear his words in the back of my mind any time I found myself in front of a room. I was acutely aware of my posture, the power of eye contact, and the importance of pausing to gather my thoughts to avoid peppering my speech with filler words.
As I recalled those lessons I was not prepared to learn at the age of 13, I gained confidence and found my voice. I started saying yes to opportunities to speak at work and in the community. The fear of public speaking never fully abates, but I have found ways to turn it into positive energy. More than 25 years after I left Mr. Del Rossi’s classroom, I am an active member of a local Toastmasters chapter, a true testament to the inspiration he shared in his classroom.