Ask most students which teachers made the biggest differences in their educations, and they are quick to mention a handful.

Close to 30 years after graduating from Craig High School, I still mention Mr. Vance as one who made the biggest difference in my education. The former industrial-arts-turned-technology-education teacher gave me the freedom to explore in class. Most important, he gave me tips that helped as I ventured out of high school. Those days in his class still have a strong impact.

The teaching profession has evolved in the last 30 years and has been in the middle of the political process here in Wisconsin. As an outsider in the Act 10 debate, I’m not quick to jump to either side of that issue. I try and look past the banter and look to the classroom. Each time I do, there’s one teacher that reminds me of a difference maker: Derrick Womack, technology education teacher at Marshall Middle School in Janesville.

We’re a lucky family. We’ve had the privilege of having Mr. Womack on our side for the past six years. He’s invested in his profession. He’s invested in the process. He’s invested in his students. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Womack and his wife, who is a teacher at Kennedy Elementary. They are genuine people.

My favorite part of school conference time is the “pop in” to chat with our tech ed teacher. We start with the formalities—grades and expectations. Afterward, we talk about technology and how it’s evolving. His role at Marshall must be filled with change in the same way Mr. Vance’s role evolved from industrial to technology.

Mr. Womack and I are part of Generation X, the generation that’s bridged the gap between the Greatest and the latest generation. Teaching and bridging in this era is a tough task, and the technology may be his easiest part of the day. Mr. Womack seems to take it all in stride. I see him interact with students both inside the teaching walls and in the community.

The political rhetoric sometimes paints a picture where teaching is easy. I don’t care what political aisle you sit in, but here’s a newsflash: Teaching is hard. On the surface, it’s a profession where you get all the holidays off and summer to yourself. Gravy, right? Tell that to the teachers who deal with social and family dynamics that I cannot imagine in addition to their “job.” Mr. Womack adds the middle school dynamic. Yikes. Is there an app for that?

For whatever reason, once General Motors left, the teaching profession became the polarizing profession Janesville residents debated and discussed. Act 10 played a part in that debate. As our community rises above the closure of the plant, I believe citizens are rising above the political and social media banter about the teaching profession here in Janesville.

It’s much more than Act 10. I see class acts. I’ve singled out Mr. Womack because he’s a great guy, but we have many great guys and gals who’ve invested their education, time, talent and resources into educating our kiddos. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re all class acts.

Steve Knox lives in Janesville. He also writes a blog, Gen-X in J-Ville, about community issues for does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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