Jeff Bibeau is the kind of guy who can make you want to be 14 again, just so you can sit in his history class. Just ask the kids at Roseville Area Middle School who earlier this week lost one of their favorite teachers to the Minnesota National Guard and a coming deployment to Iraq.
Bibeau, a captain in the Guard, said when he first received word last month that he was being called to active duty, he couldn't talk about the possibility of leaving his classes. "I told the people who needed to know... and then I decided I didn't want to tell the students until I needed to. And so last Friday, just the weekend before I was leaving, I made the announcement and I let them ask me any questions they wanted to because by that time I had some time to collect myself, get myself together; it was very hard."
It was hard for the students, too. They went home last weekend and told their parents. On Monday -- Captain Bibeau's last day -- there were cards, letters, and brownies sent to school from grateful parents on behalf of disappointed kids.
"Mr Bibeau taught me to be skeptical, and as weird as that may sound, it's important if you ever want to learn about what's beneath the surface," eighth grader Dan Hartmann said in an e-mail. "He told us about himself. I think my favorite part of the whole class is seeing how easy it can be to get someone to pay attention to you. History is the only class in which the teacher doesn't have to shut the kids up by telling them to be quiet. When Mr. Bibeau talks, people listen."
By just about any standards, Bibeau, 39, is a natural teacher, who can credit the military -- he was in the Navy for years -- with putting him in a classroom. "When I was in the Navy, we had this professor from the University of Texas and he lived on the ship for three years teaching classes. And he said, 'absolutely, you need to be a history teacher.' And so from that point on I couldn't wait to get out of the Navy and go back to college and finish my teaching degree."
He said he always felt as if history could be taught better than when he was in school, that his students could appreciate it more.
"Just to see the transformation and how they get into it and you can show them how if you take what's going on today, you can give them numerous examples from the past. The only difference is the people involved and the place it occurs. And when they make that connection, it's just awesome!
"I can remember I got a letter one time when I was deployed to Bosnia and a student said 'I just wanted to thank you. I just got accepted to college and I'm going to become a history teacher,'" he said Wednesday.
Before he left class on Monday, he had one more lesson for the kids about the adult world.
"Time heals," he told them. "By this time next year you'll be focused on what you're doing as ninth graders. It's like at the end of the school year when you all go off your own way, you're moving on to better things and if that happens and the e-mails dry up, I expect that to happen."
And he had one more lesson for adults, about the world of 8th graders.
"They're just normal people and I think unless you get to know them, you think they're troublemakers, you think they're hooligans, you think they're all these things that they're not . People always say 'you teach 8th grade? I feel sorry for you.' Why? Have you ever done it? It's awesome. Some of them say they spend more time each day talking to me than they do with their parents, because everyone is working and doing these other things that they do. So, I think it's important for a teacher to be involved and communicate with kids and make contact with them. It's pretty neat."
Audio excerpts (all mp3)
(This story originated from this earlier post on News Cut. We all know people making a difference. What's your story?)(62 Comments)
Posted at 2:40 PM on February 7, 2008
by Bob Collins
One of the U.S. allies -- Afghanistan -- is considering whether to execute a young reporter because he downloaded material on women's rights from the Internet. The U.S. has been relatively silent on the situation until Condoleezza Rice spoke out yesterday:
"I do think that the Afghans understand that there are some international norms that need to be respected. Of course, one has national laws and they're national laws that are in accordance with traditions and religious practice. But there are international norms, and I'll certainly talk to President Karzai about this case."
Meanwhile, another ally of the United States -- Saudi Arabia -- threw a 37 year old American woman in jail, strip searched her, threatened her, and forced her to sign a false confession, according to the Times of London.
Her crime? She was sitting with a man at a Starbucks.
Said President Bush last month while visiting Saudi Arabia, where he dropped news of a $123 million sale of arms to the country, "I also want you to understand something about America - that we respect you, we respect your religion and we want to work together for the sake of freedom and peace."
Lenny Pippin, the president and chief executive officer at Marshall-based Schwan Food Company, is one of the few outsiders to run the company.
The company says Pippin is leaving the company immediately, giving no reason for his departure. Greg Flack, head of the company's Global Consumer Brands division, will serve as interim boss. Flack has been with the company for 21 years.
"While this has been a very challenging time, we have a tremendous company and our prospects are bright," says board of directors chair Alfred Schwan in a statement.
In the last month the company has been consolidating operations. It closed a plant in South Carolina, which employed 525 people. In December it announced it was grounding the Red Baron Squadron, an airshow team that performed on behalf of the company's Red Baron Pizza brand.
Pippin joined the company in 1999. Judging by the comments below, some are not sad to see him go.
Update Fri. 12:09 a.m. - The Marshall Independent has an interview with Pippin:
"One of the most important things to me is the well-being of employees," Pippin said. "In an environment like this, one of the first places to cut costs is to cut people. I'm management and for me, that's the last resort. With the rare exception over the past nine years, we've always seemed to find another way."(8 Comments)
Posted at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2008
by Bob Collins
Talk about change!
At a conference in New York this week, researchers released details of experiments in which they "bypassed" spinal cord injuries in rats by grafting a nerve over it.
As the BBC reports:
It takes one of the nerves that naturally leaves the spinal column, disconnects it from its destination, then plugs it back into the spinal cord using a protein "glue".
In the case of the rats, this was a nerve heading for the abdominal muscles, which was taken just above a break in the spinal cord, and reattached below.
There has been some movement reported in the injured rats, although clearly it's a long way from being a solution to human paralysis.
Curiously, the research is big news among the media in the UK, but there's virtually nothing about it being reported in the American press, which is consumed with politics at the moment.
Posted at 4:50 PM on February 7, 2008
by Bob Collins
Sometimes we all need to stop and take a deep breath.
Thank goodness Kurt William Havelock did last Sunday. It's what prevented a national tragedy. Havelock was pretty upset that the city of Tempe, Arizona denied him a liquor license, so he headed to the Super Bowl, with a rifle, 200 rounds of ammunition, and the intent to destroy his and many other peoples' lives.
According to a manifesto he mailed to the media, he was going to shoot up Phoenix's Desert Ridge Marketplace near Scottsdale, but that "scum and villainy" are in Scottsdale and that instead he would "shed the blood of the innocent."
He got as far as a parking lot near the stadium, where pre-game parties were already underway. "He waited about a minute and decided he couldn't do this," FBI agent Philip Thorlin testified at a detention hearing for Havelock on Tuesday.