BY GRETCHEN MURRAY
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY -- A stroll down the halls of Traverse City Central High School is déjà vu all over again for Ben Berger.
The 2005 Central graduate enjoyed his high school experience so much that a teaching career came as a natural decision. Now Berger has fulfilled his dream of returning to his alma mater as a teacher, coach and advisor to the same activities he enjoyed as a student.
Berger said he always entertained the idea going into teaching, but enrolled in the business program at Michigan State after graduation.
“The good experience I had at Central was always in the back of my mind, and after a few weeks I realized business wasn’t the right career for me. I switched majors,” Berger said.
He credits pure luck and perfect timing for his job at Central.
“The administration had no idea who I was, but because this place -- this building -- was so important to me, I think I came across as really wanting the job,” he said. “I let them know it was a lifelong dream and I made it very clear I wanted to be here and for the long run.”
Berger is completing his third year as a Social Studies teacher and his first year of advising the Student Senate, an activity Berger participated in during his own high school years.
“Student Senate made a huge impact on me,” he said. “It’s an independent governing body made up of elected students who sponsor the pep assemblies and take on other school and community outreach projects. You have 30 students going different directions, and there’s a lot of out-of-school commitment, but it’s very rewarding.”
Berger also is the head coach of the junior varsity soccer team and assistant coach of the varsity hockey team, both sports he played in school.
“When I stop and think about it, I guess I am sort of reliving high school again,” he said. “It has its advantages. I grew up here, and at 26, I may seem old to them, but I’m still young enough to relate, plus I remember all the slang associated with Central.”
Coming full circle from student to teacher has given him a better perspective on Central.
“I now realize I had blinders on back then. As a teacher I can see how wide the spectrum of students is and all the different economic backgrounds they come from, and I realize it’s always been that way,” Berger said. “I loved high school, but the high school years can be hard. I try to bring energy to my job, to be a positive impact on students’ lives. I think, how can I make their day better, and I make that my priority.”