S: A Tribute to Charles Samis: Beloved Teacher
BC: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." -Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918) American historian, journalist, and novelist
FC: A Tribute to Charles Samis Beloved Teacher
1: "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." -Socrates (BC 469-BC 399)
2: Dear Dad, I find that as I get older, I become more and more proud to say that my dad is an inner-city high school teacher. The more I understand about the challenges that schools face, the hardships your students have in their lives, and the day-to-day struggle you must have endured to help a pupil learn something, the more I am in awe of the extraordinary amounts of passion and energy it must have taken over the past 30 years for you to work in this most noble profession. Now, after compiling all of the materials for this tribute, I am even more in awe. Why? For one, it's obvious how incredibly gifted you are at teaching. You are a perfect balance of patient, persistent, caring, demanding, serious, and humorous. Also, as I reflect back on a personal note to growing up, I now realize how humble and self-effacing you are and have always been. I followed Mom's path and went into music. In music, we play and people applaud. For a teacher, who applauds? Yet, as a teacher, you are responsible for shaping the future generations. However, you still had energy left over from this to teach me so much, and to be endlessly supportive of all that I wanted to do in my life. This tribute is a small way for me to express thanks - for all you've done for me, and for all you've done for the world as a teacher. Many congratulations on your retirement, and may it be a most fulfilling one for you. My love and respect always, Michael
3: Dear Charles, Congratulations on all of the wonderful achievements of your outstanding teaching career. As I read some of the letters inscribed in this book, my eyes filled with tears of joy to realize that this was my husband who was able to reach into the souls of these diverse students and give them the motivation and drive to be more successful by respecting and receiving a meaningful education. The message is repeated over and over again - you took the time and energy to help them if they didn't understand and to listen when they needed to be heard. You have also taught me so much over the past forty years of our marriage. You taught me that there is more in this world besides music, that being supportive is a characteristic of the greatest among people, and also the true value of patience, which I'm still trying to learn. You were an amazing mentor and father to Michael as he became an adult and now we are all blessed by the love that we all have for each other. You are truly "the wind beneath my wings." Thank you for being you. Mazel Tov, my dear husband. May the next half of your life bring you all that you wish and hope for. I love you. With my love always, Sylvia
4: 1946-1964 Paris, France* 1964-1973 Hartford, CT New Orleans, LA 1974-1979 University of Cincinnati: Graduate Assistant in Language | 1980-2000 Teaching French, and later, Mathematics: Summit Country Day High School Western Hills High School (right) Woodward High School | *Convinces his students he's from Paris, Texas
5: 2001-2011 | School for the Creative & Performing Arts
6: Since 1995 Upward Bound Program, University of Cincinnati Upward Bound is a pre-college program administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the University of Cincinnati. It is designed to motivate and provide academic skills for eligible students interested in education beyond high school.
7: "In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite." -Barack Obama (b. 1961)
8: Chelsea Irvin "I was in algebra with him for two years! I loved Mister Samis. I guess he thought I was crazy. I was really animated and always MORE than happy to make it to his class right after lunch. 'What's your problem, Irwin?' I tried and tried to correct him- 'it's ir VIN Mister Samis!' But I think he got a kick out of me arguing it. I think I learned more from his class than any other math class. He was really good at sticking to the subject and then afterwards, helping us figure out whatever we missed along the way. I did really well in there! And was so sad when I had to take geometry with someone else. Good times!" SCPA Algebra 1 04,05 Algebra 2 05,06 Currently works in Cincinnati, OH, saving up to go back to school for accounting.
9: Jimmy Burdette Mr. Samis, I heard the other day that you were retiring from teaching. When I went to Western Hills High School I didn't know what to expect. I had heard many things about the school that were negative, but I found that there were many good people and great teachers that had taught there. I almost went to Roger Bacon, but at the time my family did not have the financial means to send me there. It is really true when they say you get what you put into it - in this case 'High School.' I always remembered you and other teachers through college. If I would not have had caring | teachers and good friends, I would not have made it through college. I always wondered if you knew how much you were appreciated at Western Hills High School and now I feel I have that chance to let you know. As I reflect back, I remember sitting in your class in the back of the room and being called on to answer questions. I must admit I was usually a little shy, but it kept me concentrating on what you were teaching. The one thing that stood out with your teaching was that you always smiled and knew when to joke about things and keep everyone on track. I can't tell you how much I appreciated the time you gave me when I needed help on assignments and how you recognized myself and others with the pizza parties. Thanks for taking the time to help us and making my experience a great one! Good luck in your retirement and future endeavors! Sincerely, Jimmy Burdette Western Hills High School Algebra 2 99, 00 Currently lives/works in Cincinnati
10: Briana Rice "Mr. Samis was the best math teacher I ever had! He's so funny and he actually believed I'm smart! He actually took the time to work through the problems, not just show them on the board like all the other math teachers! I still say, 'Whatever your little heart desires' in his little accent and I'm still wondering where he's from. Hahaha. I hope everything is going well with him in retirement!" SCPA Algebra 1
11: "The man who can make hard things easy is the educator." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American poet, essayist, and lecturer
12: Chelsey K. Shannon SCPA Algebra 1 Geometry Algebra 2 Currently in college studying sociology, English, and women's studies | My SCPA career didn't start off too smoothly: I'd transferred there for ninth grade because my father had passed away. Already very shy, my sadness over losing my dad, childhood home, and old friends didn't make it any easier for me to break out of my shell. And it didn't help that I had a crazy math teacher named Mr. Samis who wouldn't allow us Algebra I students to use calculators; would scrutinize every homework assignment, calling us out if we didn't show our work or skipped a tough problem; and talked louder than anyone I'd ever met. All the time. After he yelled at me for reading a non-math book in class after I'd finished my work, I was convinced that he was a fundamentally mean person and that it was going to be a very long year. I wasn't even a math person. Over the months, though, I became more used to Mr. Samis' mannerisms. Sure, he was intimidating, dramatic, uncompromising, but I'd proven myself to be a good student in that I always did my homework (though as I said, I was never very good at math), passed my tests, and gave
13: it a good college try when he called on me. Convinced of my effort by October, he tended to leave me alone. Then one day in January, around a year after my dad was killed, Mr. Samis called me up to his desk before our class' bell rang. My old fear overtook me; though I couldn't think of anything that I'd done wrong, I felt certain that he was going to yell at me for something. I approached his desk cautiously. "I just wanted you to know," he said in a softer, gentler voice than I'd ever heard him use, "that I saw a segment on the news last night about the anniversary of your father's death. I'm very sorry." I was stunned. Because I was so reclusive, hardly anyone at SCPA knew about my dad's death at the time, or at least if they did, they didn't feel close enough to me to acknowledge it. But here was Mr. Samis - possibly the last person at school who I'd expect to be sweet - giving me his condolences and making me feel cared for when I felt extremely alone. I managed to shelf my surprise long enough to smile, thank him, and take my seat. Mr. Samis ended up being my math teacher for two more years for geometry and Algebra II, so he was around for the majority of my high school years. We didn't have many more personal exchanges after that, but I always felt there was some sort of understanding between us, something special about the fact that he'd chosen to show a softer side to me while he was usually brusque and authoritarian with his students. I came to appreciate his humor and teaching style, and was even sad when I learned I wouldn't have him again for precalculus in my senior year. Now I am in college studying sociology, English, and women's studies - pretty far from anything mathematical. In fact, my college doesn't have general education requirements, so it's entirely possible that I'll never have to take a math class again -an arrangement I would be very comfortable with. I'm not a math person. But even so, I consider Mr. Samis one of my favorite teachers. - Chelsey Shannon
16: "Mr. Samis was such a great teacher. He knew when to have fun, and when to get down to business. My favorite memory was his love for classical music. He would play it during class, and when students would comment on it, he would respond, "What?!? You don't like the trout?!?! hahaha." He then educated them on what a "trout" was if they didn't already know. He also had a lot of patience for the more rambunctious student, like my older brother Tim Hershner. I'm really sad to hear he is retiring, I know he will be missed. I work at the Mariemont library, and run in to some of my old classmates, and when they hear about it they are sad as well. We all love him to bits, whether we had him for one class or many. His role will be a hard one to fill, but I do hope he enjoys his retirement!" | Claudia Hershner SCPA Precalculus 05 Currently living in Cincinnati, recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, Magna Cum Laude with a BFA. Currently working at the Cincinnati Public Library... soon to go to Graduate school in Washington, D.C.
17: Liz Schuster SCPA Algebra 1 AA 10,11 Living in Cincinnati, OH attending Gamble Montessori School | Dear Mr. Samis, I very much enjoyed being your student this past year. I wish you could have been our teacher for the full year, but at least you were there for most of it. (Where you been all my life? You never here the last few months!) As well as having a better understanding of the “language” of math, you taught me about life in general and raised my confidence. If nothing else, you left your other students and me with a bigger vocabulary, better understanding of philosophy, and references to good literature. That’s what every high schooler needs, right? Over all, I know at least for me, you made a big impact on my life as my teacher, and I appreciate that. I will definitely use the tools you gave me this past year in my upcoming high school career. We miss you, Mr. Samis! WE DO BE! - Liz Schuster
18: "I was the kind of student who tried to go to class as little as possible. One of the few high school classes I made it a habit of attending was Mr. Samis's math class. Me and my short attention span was always entertained by Mr. Samis funny jokes. From the way he pronounced Par-a-bol-a to his college stories with Pythagoras, it was never a dull day in the classroom of Mr. Charles Samis, the man from Texas." | Jonathan Knoffer SCPA Algebra 1 Geometry Currently studying graphic design at Kansas City Art Institute | Eating flan in Paris, Texas
19: "Mr. Samis was too funny... We really only communicated through witty fights sparked by his frequent roast sessions. He was a character, that one teacher who got all the kids wondering, like, "WHO IS HE?" He wouldn't even tell us his birthday and it was argued whether he was really from Texas or if he descended from France. Despite his unrealistic classroom persona, his true intelligence was occasionally revealed, mainly through information he knew. I was reading "Miss Lonely Hearts and The Day of the Locust" and I think that's when he realized I was actually smarter than he previously thought. He picked the book up from my desk, a little surprised, looked it over, said, 'Good book,' and put it back down. I think there was some level of underlying respect for me despite my uninterested performance in his Algebra I and II classes. And just for the fun of it, a few historical Mr. Samis quotes include, 'GO TO SIBERIA!', 'WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!?!?', 'WE DO-BE!' " | Erin Miranda Parker SCPA Algebra 1 06, 07 Algebra 2 08, 09 Currently studying in New York, NY Parsons New School of Design
20: Dear Charles, Congratulations on your retirement! It was 26 years ago (1984-85) when you did your student teaching with me. That turned out to be my last year of teaching, but not because of you. Wow! How time flies. The memory of that year has become hazy and faded; but I do remember you were an excellent teacher. Your sense of humor and that slightly French accent made the students love you, especially the girls! My father died in February of that year and I had to be our of school for a week. I was so grateful to you for teaching my full schedule during that time. I knew the kids were in very good hands. I hope you have many happy and healthy years of retirement. And, I hope to see you once in a while at the Hamilton County Teachers Association lunches. Please stay in touch. With love and best wishes, Dorothy (aka Dotty) Bauer Dorothy Bauer fellow teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools
22: "Mr. Samis was a very memorable teacher. He is a very intelligent man, and he worked hard every day to help his students understand the material. He is approachable, which is a very important trait for a teacher to possess. And I will never hear the words 'Texas,' 'furry son,' or the phrase 'where have you been all my life?' without being flooded with memories of Mr. Samis." | Candace (Middleton) Warner Ryan Warner SCPA Algebra 1 01, 02 (Ryan) Precalculus 04, 05 (Candace) | The Furry Son
23: Alyssa Tanner Carroll Private Math Tutoring 09,10 "Having Charles tutor me made a substantial difference in my academic success mathematically. He magically caused everything to make sense. After years of attempting different ways of viewing math, a few simple words from him about changing my perspective caused all of the pieces to fall into place. This was a large insecurity for me and I give Charles my most heartfelt thanks for his endless hours of patience and time."
24: Morgan Schmitz SCPA Geometry '04, '05 Currently living in Cincinnati | Dear Mr. Samis, Well, we didnt get along very well my freshman year. In fact I ended up switching classes. But my sophomore year I had no choice but to have you as my Geometry teacher. We turned my D in Algebra1 into an A in Geometry! We had a great year! And I wish I would of stuck it out freshman year. Your an awesome teacher! You really truly cared about the students who cared back. My twin Megan and I truly cared and value your teaching skills. Thank you for being an inspriation to me as I hope to Major in Mathematics at UC soon. Morgan Schmitz
25: "It is hard to convince a high-school student that he will encounter a lot of problems more difficult than those of Algebra and Geometry." -Edgar Watson Howe (1853-1937) American Novelist and newspaper editor
26: Charles, thank you for the wonderful experience of your class at UC,viz., THE SPIRIT OF DECADENCE. I learned so much, had fun learning, and appreciated your teaching technique-you gave me a sense of the age from all standpoints:history, fine arts, and a variety of styles contained in the period, represented in the reading selections you chose for us. I taught UBU to my 10th graders and 12th graders at Woodward and at Jacobs--I taught A THROW OF THE DICE to my advanced classes, and loved doing so-without you giving me this experience, I could not have given it to so many of my students. Thank you! You managed time so well, were congenial, and made it all come alive for me.
27: You and I have had many different levels of connection throughout these almost 40 years: loving to learn as students, surviving teaching in the inner city CPS Behemoth, the love of music-you always supported me and gave me confidence before concerts, loving to read wonderful books and poetry, being parents whose children loved to play together, sharing wonderful mealsboth at your home which has always been heaven to me, and also at wonderful restaurants- Grande Finale, Primavista--the yearly April 19th celebrations which continue even to this day! The bad back club, in which we hobble along the best we can, take pain meds and try all sorts of remedies, from injections, exercises, and finally for me, surgery. We have been to so many concerts together, which times I cherish. Also, the chamber music concerts have been my greatest experiences- and you were always there helping in many ways--and then playing trios with Sylvia and Michael-what a cherished, carried-off-in-the-spirit musical peak experience--your energy was always adding to our performances-making them richer! And now we share the retired from the monster club---no more can the BEAST take any more pounds of flesh from us, torture us, threaten us, lie about us, upset our peace. WE ARE NOW IN THE PEACE CLUB!!! The rest is forever behind us, locked tightly in a horse-radish jar, never again to emerge!!! Congratulations, my friend, and I look forward to many years ahead of fun, music, intellectual exchanges, friendship, and wonderful surprises which will bring us even closer together---and here's to SILVER!!!! His voice joins those of Dandy and Wolfy---we are in God's time, which never ends. Thank you for being there for me through all these years, and for the years to come!!!! Much love always, Dottie Dottie Davis pianist and fellow teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools
28: "Education is the key to preventing the cycle of violence and hatred that marred the 20th century from repeating itself in the 21st century." -Elie Wiesel (b. 1928) Romanian-born Jewish-American writer
30: Eighth bell, eighth grade. First thing he said to us: Algebra is boring. This class was going to be completely different from anything we had had before and I have not had a class like it since. From the beginning, Mr. Samis was a kind of riddle that we young teenagers were trying to figure out. Paris, Texas versus Paris, France. The accent. The Cajun license plate. The furry son. How did all of this fit in with the man in the front of the class, his glasses perched on his forehead, teaching math between playful jabs at just about every student in the room? I was usually the quiet, studious one and I remember well sitting off to the side, reading C.S. Lewis before class and being asked why I was reading that shit. Don Quixote was the next book I opened. At least to a certain extent we were all in our own way trying to impress him, even the ones he teased to no end. I think the class appealed to our sense of adventure. Everyday we felt like we were discovering something new. And on top of it all, he was hilarious and good-naturedly sarcastic. It was honestly the best class to end a long day. -Justine Cefalu | Justine Cefalu SCPA Algebra 1 06-07 Currently attending Yale University Thank you, Mr. Samis, for a wonderful year and for great conversations about music and books. I miss you and all the best! I hope we will see each other again soon. Yours, Justine
33: A Tribute for Charles The prophet Micah said: “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” We believe that Charles Samis epitomizes the phrase walking humbly with God. We believe that Charles Samis is a prince of the people Israel. According to Rabbinic literature, the world exists for the sake of children in the schoolhouse and for the teachers who guide them there. Judaism celebrates education and we are referred to as the “People of the Book.” As a linguist and scholar, Charles enhances those sentiments giving generously of his heart, mind, and soul (Yiddish, French and American). He has lavished boundless gifts of spirit on generations of his students. In an expanded sense, the concept of Torah includes all education and enlightenment. Thus, Charles has taught Torah in a variety of languages. In “The Little Prince,” St. Exupery reminds us that we see clearly only with the heart and that “it is the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose important. People have forgotten this truth, but you must not.” Charles has not forgotten that truth as he has tended to and shown responsibility for all those students in his garden. As a mathematical romantic, he rendered equations and formulas of his heart. These are reflections of the spark of Divinity within him. We, together, are inspired to celebrate Charles Samis as we rise with a standing ovation. The rippling effects of his professional years will touch the shores of eternity. With deep love, Rabbi Mark & Dr. Meryl Goldman