FOLSOM, Calif. — Michael Itkoff teaches 4th grade at Sandra J. Gallardo Elementary School in Folsom. He was nominated because, “he makes learning fun… and encourages students and their families to be involved in their community. The integrity, honesty, kindness, leadership, time management, and importance of group work that he taught has helped mold so many young minds, making them dynamic students in their own field” says parent Kara Walker. ABC10 asked Michael a few questions about his career in teaching. This is what he had to say:
Q: How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching 26 years total; 18 years at Sandra J. Gallardo Elementary School
Q: Who was your favorite teacher growing up?
Growing up my favorite teacher that had a significant impact on me was Mr. Fitzpatrick, my social studies teacher; he went on to be our vice principle in my junior/senior year. He showed me that teaching can be fun but more importantly he taught me I must be responsible for my own learning too; although, I didn't realize it at the time though. He might laugh today to know I became a teacher, but looking back, he had a tremendous impact on how I approached my teaching craft in my career.
Q: What’s your favorite student success story?
My most recent student success story was running into a former student a month or so ago at a local brewery [boy, was that weird I felt kinda old, LOL]. I was wearing a t-shirt that had my last name on it, and he recognized it and asked if I taught at Gallardo Elementary School. He identified himself and updated me on how things were going. He has a great career as a mechanical engineer, he recently bought a house, and he thanked me because he remembered what an impact I had on him, even in fourth grade. When teachers encounter this, it's like an energizer that pumps more years of enthusiastic teaching into us. The most emotional student success story was an encounter I had with a former middle school student in 1999. We lived in a small town in the California desert southwest and he recognized me as I drove up through a fast-food business. He took the time to tell me that I was instrumental in helping him make the right choices in his life; it was a small town, and the pressures of gang and illegal activity were everywhere. He was grateful to me for always being a positive role model for the students and himself, in particular. I have never forgot that encounter and often draw on that as inspiration to at least once a day try to positively impact every student in my class.
Q: What advice do you have for the future teachers of America?
My advice to futures teachers is simple, be authentic. Do not try to be something you are not; students will always respond to you when you are being true to yourself. ALSO, teachers need to have a memory box, and in that memory box keep all the notes, cards, and emails from students or parents thanking you for your extraordinary effort in their lives. Go to that box whenever you feel down or defeated to remind yourself just how valuable you are and why you got into teaching.
Q: What advice do you have for parents?
My advice for parents is to please, please, please limit the screen time for your children. Keep your children off social media for as long as possible. Even in high school, your children are just not ready for the destructive influence social media has on them; and for the younger children please limit their use of video games. The games today are extremely graphic and interactive; in fact, the games are as much like social media as they now offer communication with each other in real time. Students play these games, and the games take over and occupy their minds, even at school when they should be focusing on the lessons in class.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
The only other thing I would like to add is that every day of my teaching career I try to be inspirational. Teachers are competing with tremendous social influences these days and our students often need not only academic lessons, they need life lessons. No matter what the subject, I always take time to teach the intangibles, to teach respect, to teach responsibility, to teach integrity, but most of all, to teach students to never give up!
Congratulations again to ABC10's August 2021 Teacher of the Month, Michael Itkoff!
Teacher of the Month/Teacher of the Year is ABC10’s way of honoring exemplary teachers in our community and say ‘thank you’ for their hard work. ABC10 viewers, students, principals, parents, family and friends nominate educators they feel deserve this title. Each month Sac State selects a teacher out of this pool of nominees to be honored as ‘Teacher of the Month’, receiving a $1,000 dollar check from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, a profile story on ABC10 and ABC10.com, and other prizes! Plus, all nominees are put in the running for Esquire IMAX and ABC10’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ winning an additional $5,000 dollars courtesy of SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. The ‘Teacher of the Year’ ceremony is held every spring.
To nominate a teacher you think is deserving and see all of ABC10’s Teacher of the Month nominees, visit: www.abc10.com/teacherofthemonth