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March 31, 2014

Elk Rapids' Reisig practices what she teaches

ELK RAPIDS — Terri Reisig was in the fourth grade when she and her sister were quarantined with scarlet fever.

They helped pass the time with a game that would become Reisig’s life work and passion.

“I played school with my sister and I was the teacher,” recalled Reisig, of Elk Rapids. “I made her do math and spelling and writing.”

Now Reisig, 64, is an international award-winning teacher known for her fairness and high standards, her creative teaching method, and her energy and investment in her students, her school and her district.

“It’s like something out of a PBS special, but she really did make learning fun,” said Leah Bagdon McCallum, Reisig’s former student at Elk Rapids High School and director of advancement for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. “I and hundreds of kids took whatever her classes were. It didn’t matter what she was teaching, what the subject was, she was that engaging."

Reisig’s classroom reflects her global approach to teaching communication arts, including senior English, college prep communication skills and AP language and composition.

Nearly every surface displays food for thought, from art posters and paper cranes to school pennants and peace flags. Books line one long wall, photos of students past and present another. Above the photo board, her governing classroom philosophy in giant letters: "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew."

The visually stimulating classroom is where Reisig teaches students to write and think critically, using everything from literature to film as her base. A recent exercise involved the movie “Citizen Kane” and the question of whether the film should be colorized.

“Even though she taught English and communications, she taught people to pursue a rich and cultural life,” McCallum said. “If she was teaching Greek mythology, she’d talk about Greek art and food. If she was teaching something from the 1970s, she’d play music from that period. She had that comprehensive approach.”

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