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Archive for Monday, April 30, 2007

LHS social studies chairman: No day is typical in his class

April 30, 2007

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Lawrence High School social studies teacher Mike Ortmann leads class Thursday at LHS. Ortmann won a Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award from Kansas University.

Lawrence High School social studies teacher Mike Ortmann leads class Thursday at LHS. Ortmann won a Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award from Kansas University.

Mike Ortmann, a Lawrence High School history teacher

Mike Ortmann, a Lawrence High School history teacher, recently won one of the first KU Wolfe Teaching Excellence Awards. Enlarge video

Teaching can be demanding. But the big payoff comes when you finally get through to the student, says Mike Ortmann.

"It's really rewarding, especially when you see that light click in a young person's eyes," the Lawrence High School history teacher said last week. "It's really fun."

Helping students see the intellectual light has led Ortmann to another other reward - he soon will receive a Kansas University Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award.

During KU's graduation weekend May 19-20, Ortmann will receive a $3,000 cash award, and LHS will receive a $1,000 award in his name. Teachers are nominated by KU seniors and go through a tiered selection process.

Steve Nilhas, LHS principal, said one of Ortmann's talents is his engaging, entertaining manner.

"He knows his content very, very well," Nilhas said. "He really understands the need for students to be involved in their learning. So it's not unusual for students to give little skits or dramatic interpretations or reports. His classes are very active. Students don't just sit there and take notes all hour long."

Ortmann, who grew up in Augusta, graduated from Kansas State University in 1977. He has a master's degree from Wichita State University and taught in Newton and Derby before coming to LHS 13 years ago.

Now chairman of the LHS social studies department, he teaches classes in U.S., world and European history and East Asian studies.

"History is my thing," Ortmann said. "I'm lucky enough to have a varied day and a lot of types of history."

He says there is no such thing as a typical day in his class. He mixes up his lesson plans with exercises to develop students' writing, oral discussion and presentation skills.

"I'm a real believer in challenging them to think and really delve into the subject," he said. "I want them to be prepared to use their minds and be critical thinkers. : Young people are underestimated in that they are such a phenomenal resource for this country."

He said if more people would talk to teens, they would discover they have a lot of in-depth knowledge and they care about the outside world.

"I'm a real believer in challenging them, but (also) trying to creatively meet their different, varied learning styles and, at the same time, providing them a structured and a knowledgeable environment where they can grow into young scholars," he said.

He likened teaching to being a guide.

"They do best in a structured environment where they feel safe to explore their own ideas but be able to delve into the subject matter," he said.

Learning about the past gives students a strong knowledge of what was done right and what didn't work so well, he said, "and to have a deeper understanding of what needs to be done in the future."

Comments

jayhawkster 6 years, 11 months ago

I can't believe it's been 11 years since I had Mr. Ortmann's class and I can't believe how lucky I was to have him as a teacher. You're a phenomenal teacher and this is a well deserved award. Congrats.

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overthemoon 6 years, 11 months ago

the article doesn't mention ortman's key role in developing national history day and producing national winners every year. for those who've not seen any of the presentations or performances by the young people who have to do this if they take his class, believe me, it's inspirational. and what a great testimony to the value of having high expectations of young students.

as someone said once, children will live up or down to your expectations. if all of our teachers/parents expected the best, imagine the outcome. better than test prep education, i think.

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perkins 6 years, 11 months ago

One hopes the Administration continues to let him alone to do his thing. So many of the good ones give up. Wish my college professors were as excited about teaching as this high school instructor...and they were teaching six hours a week, not six hours a day.

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Tychoman 6 years, 11 months ago

Probably the finest teacher I've had the privilege of working with. AND now I know he graduated college in '77, I can finally ballpark his age! One of the running jokes in my AP Euro class was how old he was and what his political affiliation was. 1/1!! You rock, Ortmann.

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Mark Kelly 6 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Ortmann aka Dad aka Mike aka Mr. O aka Baldy --- some of the best memories of 97-00 stem from being in your classes all 3 years! Congratulations on the award. We need to grab coffee again, soon!!--- Marcus Aurelius aka Mussolini aka Patton .... GO JAYHAWKS!

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Tad Shurtz 6 years, 11 months ago

One of the best, most memorable teachers I had in my 12 years as a USD-497 student... he's the man!

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Chris Bohling 6 years, 11 months ago

In the words of my friend Corey, "Ortmann's class was the hardest class I've ever taken, but I LEARNED a s***load."

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prioress 6 years, 11 months ago

He said if more people would talk to teens, they would discover they have a lot of in-depth knowledge and they care about the outside world.

Great point. We sell our young people short sometimes. They are great kids, for the most part and many have a vital and interesting future.

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hilary 6 years, 11 months ago

Ort-dawg! No one is more deserving! Congratulations to an outstanding educator.

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