Teachers Who Inspire: The Cause is Clausen

Until my senior year of high school, I, like many other kids at that age, had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. It wasn't because I liked so many things that I couldn't decide, but that nothing interested me. I didn't really care whether I went to college or not -- or for that matter what job I would get once I got out of college.

Then I had my first day of government class. The teacher's name was Mr. Clausen. He had taught an A.P. history class during my sophomore year, and I was very excited to have him again as a teacher. What made Mr. Clausen a great teacher was the fact that he was young, in his late 20s, so he understood better than some of his elder co-workers just how the teenage brain functioned. More important, he understood the popular culture of the day, and how it affected all of our thought processes. Thus, he was able to take current events and explain them in ways that we could understand and that made them interesting to us.

One day shortly before Thanksgiving break, seeing the looks of anxiousness and boredom on our faces, he shut off his Power Point, looked at us all and said, "That is why government is so boring to people -- you have a bunch of old people like me just talking your ears off. I have another idea for class today." With that he sat down, went online while projecting it onto the screen, and began to pick out current events and topics. When he found one, he would sit back in his chair and say, "What do you guys think about this?"

What made this amazing was that instead of reading about other people's opinions, we got to form our own. We learned who we were and what we believed in. We also learned how to argue. Whenever someone would voice an opinion, Mr. Clausen would question them on it: "Why do you believe that? What about the people on the other side of that?" Mr. Clausen made the political world closer to home, something that we as students could reach and effect.

The real turning point was during the 2008 election. He had set up a mock, school-wide election where students voted not only for the president but for the local propositions as well. He assigned three students a proposition. We each had to study the proposition we were assigned, understand it and understand the arguments of the people for it and against it. Then we went to the classrooms participating in the election and represented our proposition -- not a certain side or decision, just the facts and the arguments. I would walk in, name my proposition and list the arguments and would get bombarded with questions and arguments and would have to fight my way out. I loved it!

That is when I decided that I wanted to be a TV news analyst, studying important things that will affect the American public, then formulating and responding to arguments. So, just before the application deadline, I picked my six schools and declared myself as a broadcast news major with a political science minor. I currently am enjoying my second semester an San Francisco State University and am loving every minute of it.

Thank you Mr. Clausen, you inspired me to be someone -- someone important.

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