By Marisa Palmieri
Professors. There are plenty of good ones out there. You've had them - the ones with years of professional experience and an office full of books and framed degrees to prove it. They care about their students. They have an open door policy and give out their home phone number. They review resumes and will write letters of recommendation. They are good at what they do.
But sometimes this just isn't enough.
A talk with Ohio University-Zanesville's first full-time faculty member, Michael Kline, proves that there is something to be said for idealism in teaching. "I think it started with us back in the '60s," Kline said. "I think mostly it was a kind of idealism. We thought we could make a difference."
In his 39th year of teaching at Zanesville, Kline said that he enjoys being at the regional campus for its "emphasis on teaching, not research."
Jim Jordan, professor of political science at Zanesville, described Kline as immensely liked and greatly respected by the students. "He often serves as a surrogate parent [to students], someone who has shown them how to succeed in life," Jordan said.
Mike Kline: Quoting his way to educational excellence
"Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance."
--Samuel Johnson, as seen in Mike Kline's "Quote of the Week" email
At Ohio University-Zanesville, veteran history professor Mike Kline's casual, unconventional teaching style is better described as coaching for it's encouraging nature, according to Jim Jordan, professor of political science at Zanesville.
"He has affected thousands of lives," Jordan said. "I suppose that's what we're here for, but he's done it better than most."
One way Kline continues to have an impact on his former students' lives is through his "Quote of the Week" email that he sends out to a database of 200 to 300 students.
Kline describes the email as a note of encouragement and a motivation tool. He writes a short note, geared toward the quarter or what's happening in the world, and follows it up with an inspiring quote.
This weekly email is just one example of Kline's dedication to making a difference in his students' lives. "These kids need to know that there's someone that is thinking about them, cares about them and wants them to succeed," he said.
At Zanesville and the other regional campuses, there is a large base of nontraditional students. They range in ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, and may not have the educational foundations they need to succeed. The students often lack study skills, support and self-esteem. Kline has made it his mission to see that his students are prepared with these tools when they arrive at the Athens campus or head into the real world."They're so used to accepting mediocrity, and that's the really sad thing," Kline said. "They're ready to settle for less than their best; it's my job to bring [the best] out."
Jordan said that Kline, who received a "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" award in 2000, was instrumental in implementing a highly successful introduction to college course for freshmen that helped many Zanesville students who were failing simply because they needed guidance, study skills and to know what was expected of them.
"I can't think of someone who is more demanding of his students, but cares more about them than Mike," Jordan said.
A fan of recent American history and a blues music buff, Kline puts mentoring his students and community involvement as two of his priorities.
Kline has served on the executive board of the Ohio Academy of History, gives annual presentations at a community Civil War Roundtable, reviews historical homes up for renovation as a member of the city's design review board and has been involved in tutoring at local high schools for years.
"It's still a challenge," he said of teaching. "You won't get them all but you have to try to, you have to try to get them all to want to learn."
Marisa Palmieri is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.