Sunday, March 23, 2014

Remembering Ms. Trosko

     March 22:  While doing my daily writing yesterday, the name of the English teacher, Dorothy Trosko, popped into my head.  I had not thought of Ms. Trosko for a few years.  In fact, I had to refer to my yearbook to get the correct spelling of her name.  There was two photos of her in the yearbook.  One is shown here and the other was a group shot of the English Department faculty.  I somehow remember her being a larger physical presence in that group photo.  I also recall her being older than how very young she appears in both these photos.  It was her presence in the classroom that made her seem larger and older.  That and the fact that I was a mere 17 years old when I knew and last saw her. 
     Ms. Trosko was a tough teacher or at least that was her reputation.  I was not excited when I learned she was to be my English teacher in my senior year because of that reputation.  She made students work and held them to high standards.   But, as is often the reality in such cases, the reputation was over exaggerated.  She ran a firm classroom and was indeed demanding.  While in her class, I realized the reputation was not warranted.  Looking back at her class now, I give her kudos for pushing us to and beyond our limits to make us better writers.  The best leaders push people beyond what they believe are their limits.  It doesn't matter if you are working as a project manager at Apple and Steve Jobs was your leader or if you (read me) were a high school senior know-it-all and Ms. Trosko was your writing teacher.  What more could one ask for from a teacher?  Is this not the essence of excellent teaching?
     I love and hate the internet.  I love that I can type in "Dorothy Trosko Stevenson High School Livonia" and get information back in a blink of the internet.  I hate that what I got back was an obituary and death notice.  I learned that Dorothy Mary Trosko was born on August 26, 1939 and passed away on February 23, 2010:  she was 71 years old... too young.  I hate that I was thinking about reaching out and thanking her for the influence she had on me four years after she passed.  Such is life.  Such is life at my age.   
     In 1971, when I graduated she was 32 years old and 14 years my senior. The photo here was from the 1970 Stevenson High School Yearbook:  my junior year.  She was 31 in this photo.  She looks like she could have been a student. 
     In reading her obituary, there was a line that struck a deep chord in me.  "She served as a powerful role model, and treasured boxes of letters filled with gratitude from former students."  I should have written one of those letters long ago.  I suppose that is what I am doing now.
     There is a lesson here.  If you think fondly, have warm memories, or appreciated the contributions someone made in your life, tell them.  Tell them the moment you think about it.  Write them, email them, call them, or tell them in person.  It doesn't matter.  They would appreciate it, especially if it is someone that you have lost touch with or haven't connected with in years.  When the thought comes into your mind, listen to what the Nike folks are always touting and, just do it.  You will be glad you did and the person will most definitely appreciate hearing from you.  I speak of this from experience both as a recipient and initiator of such contacts.
     Here is the funny thing about my Google search of Ms. Trosko, the fourth listing in the search was my February 2012 8th Anniversary Letter.  I mentioned Ms. Trosko in that letter much like I have here.  
I do not believe I ever got more than a B in any of her assignments.  It was quite frustrating.  I tried harder to no avail.  I do believe she taught me how to write a paragraph.  No other English teacher stands out in my memory.  Perhaps, that is where the seed of all this was planted.

Just like yesterday, she just popped into my head.  Unlike 2012, I did search her name.  I do believe she taught me how to write a paragraph.  It was frustrating then, but am so grateful for it now.  Before 2012 and yesterday, I really had not thought enough about Ms. Trosko and her influence on me.  
     In my May 2005 letter, Memorable School, Memorable Teachers, I presented a quiz to easily conjure up the names of special people in our lives, especially those that we may no longer be in regular contact with.  I present it again as it is worth referring to every now and again:
Take this quiz: (mentally)

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
6. Name a half dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? The lesson? The people who make a difference in
your life are not the ones with the most credentials, money or
awards. They are the ones that care.
     These are the ones we should be thinking about and thanking.
     Ms. Dorothy Trosko was one of those people in the second half of this quiz.

     Thank you Ms. Trosko!


  1. Mark ... Such a lovely testament. I graduated from Stevenson in 72. Although I never had her in a class, I remember her as a lovely lady. I too am sorry to learn of her passing. ~ Dan Williams

  2. Mark, Ms. Trosko had a great impact. I graduated in 1984. Dot Trosko and Ron Quick taught me more about English than I have ever learned. More importantly, they gave me a love of reading and writing. Thank you for this lovely tribute.

  3. Wow. I'm not the only one who missed saying, Thank You, to the one and only, A-MAZING Miss Trosko. Crazy that we both wrote about the same thing and referenced the same teacher, Mark. Here's my story: