a Living Legend
An unedited, unsolicited, 100% organic letter from elementary principal extraordinaire, Dr. Roslyn Stiles-Vaughn. She was awarded as a Houston Living Legend. Enough Said.
I simply felt a voluntary, burning urge to write this letter. I will apologize now for the lengthiness, and yet I have no idea how long this letter will actually be. Before I write whatever it is I am about to say about Mr. Cork’s remarkable teaching skills, I feel that it is important that I qualify my comments with my forty years worth of education credentials to qualify my professional assessment of Mr. Cork’s abilities as an EDUCATOR.
I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education & a minor in Speech, in addition to a Master’s and Doctorate Degree in Educational Administration. I hold certifications English as a Second Language (ESL), reading, Speech, and several others. I hold a LIFETIME Teaching Certification. I’m not sure they even offer those anymore. I’ve taught kindergarten through sixth grade, including Gifted & Talented (GT) and Content Mastery. I have extensive experience as a Lead Teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, and University Professor for both Master and Doctoral levels. I almost forgot - it was also my tremendous honor to receive the Living Legend award from HAABSE, Principal of the Year(s), Excellence in Education AND Community Leadership awards. I could go on & on, but you get my point. Actually, you don’t just yet…so I’ll tell you.
With the aforementioned blah, blah, blah, I feel that more than QUALIFIED to say that Mr. Erik Cork is one of the most knowledgeable, capable, nurturing, engaging, effective, proven, dedicated, professional TEACHERS that I have ever had the distinct, rare pleasure to have known. I don’t think I need to issue a disclaimer – because those who know me and respect MY CREDENTIALS and MY PROFESSIONAL JUDGEMENT already know that I just don’t blow smoke. Mr. Cork’s superb embrace of his writing craft and his expertise of educating, molding, creating and birthing a love for learning within children cannot be compared. He runs rings around me, as well as many, many other highly effective, well-thought of educators at all levels of their careers. His craft as a literacy consultant and his expertise of TEACHING extends not only from elementary to the collegiate level, but to adults. He TEACHES teachers how to TEACH. GO FIGURE?
Our scholars at Anderson Elementary Dual Language School are lucky and blessed to be exposed to his talents as a writing teacher. I have never been one to conform, therefore, I do not believe in separation of church and state, so I said, “BLESSED.” Often times, a child’s educational success is looked upon as a lotto – a game of chance. Sometimes, it just depends on which TEACHER they get. Sad, but true. My philosophy and edict to my teachers is not that learning “CAN” be fun, but that “Learning SHOULD be Fun.”
Mr. Cork’s calling card, MO, or “reputation” - for lack of a better word (he is the REAL writer, not me) – is just that: Teaching the way children learn, reaching them where they are, allowing them to USE the music which they are so drawn to (that’s taking up all of their time and attention anyway) is the muse Mr. Cork uses to get them to learn. and he GETS THEM to learn…often times, even more than their classroom, degreed/certified. all day, every day teachers!!! He routinely works miracles with large arenas of students all day, motivating them to WANT to learn. Ask any teacher what the number one problem with their students is. I bet most of them will tell you, “They are not motivated.” What they fail to realize is that it’s “THEIR job” to motivate them!!! THAT’S WHAT MR. CORK DOES! THAT’S WHO HE IS! That’s why he is able to TEACH them to such mastery, because he gives them the ‘SEASONING, TASTE & SPICE to WANT to learn the mechanics, rules and how-to’s of “HOW TO ACTUALLY WRITE.”
Mr. Cork teaches eager young scholars how to think, create, and to believe in themselves. Next, he gives them the knowledge, academic tools, and power to “Get ‘Er Done.” As a Country & Western fan, that is my favorite expression. Mr. Cork makes learning FUN! He TEACHES and AFFECTS the WHOLE child. A prime example which highlights Mr. Cork’s unparalleled capacity & his unique gift to reach ordinarily hard to reach children was when one of my reluctant fourth grade scholars refused to pick up his pencil to start the writing prompt about ‘THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOUR PARENTS HAPPY.’ He eyes welled-up with crocodile tears as he told us that nothing makes his parents happy, because they fight all the time. We were able to counsel, cheer up and reassure him that ‘he’ was their child, and that he definitely makes each of them happy, even if they can’t express it because of adult drama that affects many of our adult lives.
But it was Mr. Cork who broke through by telling him about the healing power of words. Soon, we were able to provide counseling assistance for the family, and may have even prevented a divorce. Who knows??? But for sure, we all remember how this same innocent – held blameless 4th grader started walking in Mr. Cork’s class with that BIG GRIN on his face trying to be the FIRST ONE to grab seat up front to start writing…especially since Mr. Cork repeatedly reminded the students how writing could be therapeutic. There are certified teachers who would have scolded him, given him a failing grade, and labeled him oppositionally-defiant. BUT Look! ‘We Did That” as the youngsters say. I know I will NEVER forget that. NEWS FLASH: Mr. Cork passionately TEACHES all children that writing really is about more than just grammar and written conventions. DANG. WHO KNEW?? That’s why writing this unsolicited letter about Mr. Cork was gnawing at me. I need to say these things out loud.
Many ‘TEACHERS’ are certified through the Alternative Certification Program (ACP), which means they are NOT degreed in teaching, although they are in another field, it’s still NOT a teaching degree. But after meeting the designated qualifications, they can become certified to TEACH. JESUS was ALSO A TEACHER (NON degreed or certified in the traditional Webster/OTHERS’ definitions). Our scholars’ parents are their FIRST teachers before they ever reach a campus or a church house (regardless of their background, education, or knowledge of pedagogy and academic content areas). And if we’re honest, most of us believe that some of the GREATEST lessons ever learned come from these two aforementioned people. The reason I feel to compelled to say all of this is because Mr. Cork goes above and beyond the responsibilities of a teacher. He is on an anointed mission that cannot be measured nor minimized by a man or a woman who uses stringent and carnal-minded criteria that Mr. Cork clearly surpasses.
Mr. Cork is a GREAT WRITER and POET. He could tear this letter apart and teach me so many things about my grammar, punctuation, use of language, etc… – Lawdy, Lawdy, especially my overzealous use of capital letters and commas, etc… and not just because I’m writing fast, loosely, and casually. He’s much better at it. It’s what he does. It who he is…AND I call myself a TEACHER. Tis-tis-tis… LOL. Yes, I just like to play in the area of writing and poetry, as a hobby, to make others feel special (whether funeral/wedding/other spoken word opportunities), or just therapeutic escape for myself, but Mr. Cork is the MASTER!
As I close, what really blows me away about Mr. Cork is his ability to always see the good, the positive, to excuse negative/non flattering behavior, and consider any personal struggle that may cause others to act this way…without judging, without ought in his heart, holding grudges, or even allowing it to damper his positive outlook. He always seems to take the high ground, ALWAYS lifting others up. mentoring, pushing, supporting, and CELEBRATING others to the highest degree. I volunteered to take the time to say all this because I’m so thankful that Mr. Cork knows Jesus. He drives Mr. Cork’s life and he knows his self-worth through Him and in Him. I’m so glad Mr. Cork claims his heritage and legacy from his Father in Heaven, and that he is a strong, confident and a God-assured elite professional who knows WHO he is and WHOSE HE IS, and that his amazing ability to teach and write does not rest in someone else’s opinion.
Mr. Cork pours knowledge into people of all ages, races, income levels or emotional behavior patterns. He develops a thirst, a natural eagerness, and an intense desire for learning within each of my scholars. His PASSION is unbridled as a teacher – because he does TEACH my scholars. Mr. Cork has given them hope. With HOPE, they can conquer the world!!!
TEACH: SHOW OR EXPLAIN TO SOMEONE HOW TO DO SOMETHING
TEACHER: A PERSON WHO TEACHES OR INSTRUCTS
A TEACHER TEACHER: MR. ERIK CORK
Your Professional Colleague in Christ,
Dr. Roslyn Stiles-Vaughn