Podl Addresses Students

An open letter to my students,

I have taken a medical leave. However, I want all of you to know that I recognize that the last weeks have not been easy ones for any of you or for the community. They have also not been easy ones for me. I very much wish that events had unfolded differently. We all have suffered. There is a lot of work ahead of us as we reflect on how to handle conflict, how to work together instead of against each other, and how to lead effectively.

I grew up in Shaker. I have always loved teaching. I was that kid who played school with my friends. When I was a senior at Shaker, I worked with a Mercer teacher for senior project. During my freshman year at Brown, I pretended to be an economics major, but by sophomore year, I came to my senses again and immersed myself in educational philosophy and psychology, volunteering at local schools, and ultimately writing a senior thesis on school reform. After a three-year stint teaching at a California boarding school, I returned to Brown to get my Masters in Teaching English and also spent a year working for an educational think tank. When we moved back to Ohio, I spent two years teaching at Orange and then was overjoyed to land a job at Shaker in 1994.

Teaching has never been just a job for me; it’s a passion. I spend hours reading novels and articles about teaching, engaging in dialogues with colleagues about curriculum and pedagogy. I get excited every day thinking about coming to school. I constantly think about different ideas to try in class, and I actually look forward to crafting a syllabus for a unit.

What I love most about teaching, though, is the students. I love attendance and a question at the beginning of class each day. I love reading every word you write, and I love encouraging you to be your best selves. I love discussing literature with you and collaborating to gain deeper understanding of texts. I love how hard you work and how willing you are to expose yourselves to new ideas and to make connections between literature and life. I love meeting with you after school or at Panera to talk about what you’re working on. I even love writing your letters of recommendation for college. I treasure the relationships that we build over the course of a year working hard together. I hope that you find a career that is as rewarding and fulfilling as teaching has been for me.

Truly, I am the lucky one. I have had the immense pleasure of working alongside dedicated, smart, and compassionate colleagues, each and every one committed to finding ways to help students succeed. I am amazed by their professionalism and by the way they support each other each and every day. I have taught and learned from hundreds of students in my years at Shaker who have each, in their own way, enriched my life and made me so proud of their growth. I have met so many wonderful parents who have entrusted their children to me, many whom have ultimately become my friends. My own children — Matthew, Josh and Rachel — had amazing experiences both in and out of the classroom as Shaker Raiders. I am, indeed, grateful beyond measure and humbled by our amazing community.

It is my sincere hope that some good can come from what has been a very disruptive and destructive situation. Please know that I am pulling hard for Shaker to find its way.

Jody Podl

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