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Making Civics Real Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives: His development as a teacher

Bill Mittlefehldt: My mother was a teacher. My dad was a public servant, a probation officer. I grew up respecting public service. There are many people in our country today who undervalue public service, which I find very ironic in that it has helped us become the strongest nation on the planet with some of the strongest democratic institutions.

When I was in college, I was [preparing] for the Peace Corps. Part of my training was in Brooklyn in 1967. It was a tremendous eye-opening experience for me. I lived next to Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is not your nicest neighborhood if you’re an outsider. I was an outsider, but the people were very decent to me. It just kind of opened the world to my suburban brain. I was a young man at that time. Cities were burning, and we were in the midst of Vietnam and civil rights, and I thought it would be hypocritical for me to go to another country to help them with their problems when my own country was so confused and conflicted. So I changed my major. I decided to go into education so I could get involved in a hands-on way in my own country. I graduated in ’68 with a degree in education and I decided that I needed to go on and further my [education] because I was kind of a late bloomer intellectually. I went to Chicago Theological Seminary. I got two Master’s degrees from there. Then I went to teach for two years in the Chicago suburbs. My wife and I decided we’d come to Minnesota and raise Minnesotans and we were fortunate to get jobs teaching here. I got another Master’s degree in curriculum and instructional systems at the University. I also taught at a Chicago reform school and because of my background in Brooklyn, it was a great introduction to what’s going on in those kids’ psyches.

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