President Steve Scott addressed about 90 soon-to-be teachers on May 1 at the university’s annual Teacher Recognition Ceremony, but not in his usual role. Scott said he was speaking to them not as president of the university, as a fellow teacher or as a PSU alumnus, but as Phil Scott’s dad.
The president began his presentation with a childhood photo of Phil, who was born in 1981, following a difficult birth.
“I graduated from Pittsburg State University with a teaching degree and for several years I was a high school math teacher, but not until I had a son did I understand what great teaching is,” Scott said.
When Phil was about 5, Scott explained, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. When it was time for Phil to begin school, Scott said, he and his wife, Cathy, had a mix of emotions.
“We had hopes, but we also had worries,” Scott said.
Over the years, a series of teachers made a difference for Phil, Scott said. He showed a photograph that he described as a metaphor for a great teacher.
In the photo, Pittsburg High School science teacher Jim Foresman stands beside Phil Scott, who is wearing a helmet and gear in anticipation of a rappelling challenge, which was part of an after-school program for middle school students Foresman ran.
“I love the look on Phil’s face,” Scott said. “What do you see? Doubt? Anxiety? But he’s concentrating and thinking about the task.”
And Foresman, Scott said, stands beside his son instead of in front or behind.
“The look on Jim Foresman’s face conveys a belief that ‘you can do this.’”
“That, in my mind, is what great teaching is all about,” Scott said.
The president concluded his brief remarks with a current photo of Phil standing in front of his apartment. He said that today, Phil is an outgoing, happy and active young man who works part time and maintains his own home. He gives much of the credit for Phil’s success to teachers.
“When I think of great teachers,” Scott said, “I think of Phil.”
Scott offered encouraging remarks for the teachers just beginning their careers.
“It is a huge responsibility,” Scott said. “I don’t know that there is a more important role in American life.”
Following President Scott’s remarks, the new teachers received medallions and took “The Teachers Oath,” a tradition that began with the Teachers Recognition Ceremony 10 years ago.