A teacher who lifts his students calls it a career

It probably says something about Dennis Schreiber that his son, Stephen, who once worked in the hallowed confines of the World Headquarters of NewsCut before making something of himself, didn’t know there was to be a glowing article about his dad and eighth-grade teacher until he saw it at the Rochester Post Bulletin website today.

His dad is the “teacher who lifts you up,” the PB says.

Or was.

After 44 years — 44 years! — he’s retired from St. Francis of Assisi school.

Here’s the kicker: He didn’t grow up wanting to be a teacher. He wasn’t drawn to it. He just thought he’d give it a try. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

In what can often be rocky middle-school years, his students said the biggest thing he’s inspired in them is confidence.

“He’s the teacher who lifts you up, and finds the best in you and makes you work harder,” said Eileen Kennedy-Warrington, a parent who has worked closely with Schreiber as students competed in the Future City competition, a national competition which tasks students with designing a sustainable city of the future.

On every test students take, they are required to write “I can do this” at the top, a step which if skipped will cost them a point or two. At other times, he makes his students look in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful,” said students in his last eighth grade class last week.

“He not only teaches, he teaches us how to apply,” said eighth-grade student Emily Wetzel.

A lot of people who sniff at the role of self-esteem building in teaching think this is something new and not the type of thing that creates successful adults. Forty-four years of successful adults from St. Francis of Assisi prove otherwise.

“They have to be at the center of their learning — not me,” Schreiber the elder said of his students. “I give them the framework, the guidelines, help them out, coach them, manage them, but they’re the ones that have to struggle with the learning, deal with the learning.”

Schreiber the younger says he got to see his dad teach multiple generations of the same families “I have seen him attend his students high points and low points long after they leave his classroom,” he wrote today. “He’ll show up at a high school basketball game and never miss a funeral when someone passes much too soon. You can’t run errands with him and not run into a current or former student.”

He says his dad taught him “the power of showing up.”

And about that having-your-father-as-your-teacher thing: “I did my best to call him Mr. Schreiber but was willing to toss out a Dad when I really wanted his attention.”