'The first teacher who told me I was smart:' Forum, WDAY staff reflect on educators who most impacted them

As we celebrate outstanding teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12, journalists from The Forum and WDAY-TV share stories of the teachers who made a difference in their lives.

Who is your favorite teacher? Forum and WDAY journalists weigh in on their favorites for Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12.
Troy Becker

FARGO — It’s hard to quantify the impact a great teacher can have on your life — not just during your school days, but many years later when you realize the lessons they taught never went away.

As the celebration of outstanding teachers begins during Teacher Appreciation Week May 8-12, Forum reporters and editors, along with WDAY anchors and meteorologists, share stories about educators who instilled confidence, ignited a love of learning and insisted on showing a little school spirit.

Dana Mogck - WDAY-TV anchor

dana teachers.JPG
WDAY-TV Anchor Dana Mogck, left, with two of his favorite teachers; Sam Neis, center; and John Torgerson; right. Both taught at South High School in Fargo.
Forum archives/Sudhian yearbook

I had two favorite teachers: Sam Neis (geometry) and John Torgerson (drafting)

Sam was so full of life. The first thing he made you learn was the school song. He was also Fargo South's football coach at the time. If you didn't know the words to the school song, you had to learn them and stand up in class and sing it. Everybody ended up learning the song. He left mid-year to coach at NDSU. My grade went from an A to a C.

John was the first teacher who told me I was smart. For some reason, I believed him. He thought I should be some type of engineer. I failed him, I guess. He was tough and gruff, but soft-hearted. He just didn't want anyone to know.


Jeff Kolpack - Forum sports reporter

Forum sports reporter Jeff Kolpack said his NDSU professor Lou Richardson help lead him to a career in journalism.
Forum file photo/NDSU

I’d like to throw a little audible in this and talk about the most impactful teacher because I don't want to break a tie between ten or 15 favorite teachers. So I will go to my college journalism professor Lou Richardson, who, during class one day, told me to stay after class. So I'm thinking, "OK, I'm in trouble. What did I do wrong here?"

But she proceeded to convince me about the talent that I had for writing. I think just that little conversation set me straight and on a path to journalism. I will forever be appreciative of her taking the time to do some one-on-one mentoring and steer me in the right direction.

Kerstin Kealy - WDAY-TV anchor

Marv Bossart and Kerstin Kealy at his retirement party from WDAY-TV in 2000. Not only did Kerstin anchor the news with Marv, but Marv was her teacher at Minnesota State University Moorhead in the 1990s.
Forum file photo

My favorite teacher was our Marv (Bossart). I met him during my freshman year in college and had him for two classes at MSUM. He was my favorite for a million reasons. I loved his enthusiasm and positivity. I trusted what he was teaching me because he was doing it every day in his work at WDAY. He taught us the foundation of everything in journalism was good writing. Without good writing, we wouldn't be successful.

I loved that he pushed us and challenged us and that he brought his real-life experiences to the class. He could tell such a great story — sometimes you didn't even realize you were learning valuable lessons.

John Lamb - Forum arts and entertainment reporter

Forum reporter John Lamb's favorite teacher was Catherine Mulligan who taught at NDSU, but worked with high school students in the Creative Arts Studio.
Forum file photo/Ross Rorvig

When I was at Fargo South High, there was a program called the Creative Art Studio, which was open for public school kids to come in and learn art. It was run by Catherine Mulligan, who was an NDSU professor. It was great for high school kids because we got to do art that was outside the box of what we could do in high school. She treated us like college students. She introduced us to a lot of different techniques and styles and really helped us push the envelope. She was just a great character.

John Wheeler - WDAY-TV chief meteorologist

Meteorologist John Wheeler says people might assume a science professor was his favorite, but he says his English composition professor John McCully was "a special teacher because he made his students feel like their work had quality and value."
Submitted photo/Iowa State University

I suppose most people would think my favorite teacher would have been a science teacher or a meteorology professor, but my favorite teacher was Dr. John McCully, an English professor at Iowa State University, who taught my second term of freshman composition. Dr. McCully was a special teacher because he made his students feel like their work had quality and value. For me, in particular, he inspired me to trust my writing instincts and to continue to find things to write about, which I've done all my life.

Kaity Young - Forum news editor

Jill Walker, left and Sandra Sedivy, center are two of Forum editor Kaity Young's favorite teachers.
Walker photo submitted/ East Grand Forks Public Schools; Sedivy photo submitted/Perham Focus/ Kaity Young photo by Chris Flynn

I have two favorite teachers — Mrs. Walter and Mrs. Sedivy, both at Perham High School. They were both English teachers. I always thought I was going to study astrophysics; I wanted to be an astronaut. But I was also a bookworm. I loved to read. My English teachers were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. But as I've gotten into journalism and look back at how I got here, I often think about how encouraging they were of the talent that I had, that I took as just being a bookworm.

Jesse Ritka - WDAY-TV metereologist

jesse and teachers.JPG
WDAY-TV meteorologist Jesse Ritka, said her geometry teacher Kevin Panzer (center) made it "hip to be square" while English teacher Jeff Hoeg taught her to strive for her best.
Submitted photos/Jesse Ritka

The first is my geometry teacher, Mr. Kevin Panzer. He strayed so far from textbook teaching and memorization of equations that it was hard not to fall in love with math. So many lessons were hands-on, and I remember learning about angles by playing mini golf and committing equations to memory through song.


My other favorite teacher was my English teacher Mr. Jeff Hoeg. Mr. Hoeg was not below jumping up on top of a desk to recite a poem or just to shake the high schoolers out of the post-lunch stupor.

Angie Wieck - Forum business and features editor

College graduation.jpg angie w..jpg
Forum Business and Features Editor Angie Weick, left, with her mother, Lois Wieck, who was also her favorite teacher.
Submitted photo/Angie Wieck

Well, many teachers have had an impact on my life, but there is no one that had a bigger impact than my kindergarten teacher, who was my mom, Lois Wieck. She taught me to how to be a lifelong learner. And that's something that remains true today and is one of the best parts of my job. Whether I'm learning about gardening or cryptocurrency or you name it, we're always learning something new today.

We lost my mom this August. So many of her students came from across the state to pay their respects. It was just a reminder of the importance of teachers and what a change they can make in kids’ lives.

So thank you to the teachers out there and Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

For more stories about our favorite teachers, watch this video produced by Chris Flynn and read "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" on Wednesday.

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
What To Read Next
Get Local