I just learned about the passing of Mr. Sullivan. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Sullivan as my teacher from 1984-1988 in Greeley, Colorado at University High School. I went back to school in 1994 to get my teaching certificate and confirmed what I already knew, that Mr. Sullivan was an amazing teacher. During this time I wrote a letter to Mr. Sullivan but didn't know what had happen to him and didn't know where to send it. I was able to track him down a few years ago and let him know how much he had inspired me. I though I would share the original letter I wrote back in 1994.
“Hello, I have been wondering what you have been up to these last few years since I graduated back in 1988. The last I heard you were going back to school? I am back in school myself. I got my degree in field biology with a minor in chemistry from UNC in the spring of 1994. I did take a couple of art classes and my drawing has improved greatly. I do some cartooning, and other drawing when I have the chance. I enclosed a picture I did a few weeks ago. It is in the same style you taught me to do the Kennedy picture back in 9th or 10th grade. I figure it is not bad for a scientist. I am back in school to get my teaching degree at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. My mom is now a professor in the education department here at Tech.
Learning about education from the teacher's perspective has been an enlightening experience. I have been really sold on the idea of a learner-centered classroom. Upon reflection of my entire education the only time that I feel had a true learner centered class was from you. At the time I was taking a independent study from you and I thought I was really getting away with something. I mean I could come and go as I pleased and I was not strictly supervised. Now I can really see the beauty of the class. It was truly a learner centered class and you were the facilitator of that class.
I would come in early or in at different times to work on my project but sometimes I just didn't feel like working on my project and that was fine. During the time I took the class, I did a huge variety of things including several different mediums of sculpture, silk screening, pottery, drawing, watercolors and oil painting. These are all things that I wanted to try on my own and you would help me along as I did (facilitating). I remember one of the funnier projects was this sculpture I tried to do of a runner. I told you my idea and you gave me some ideas and books on how I could go about it. I remember the strings running all over trying to make the sculpture stop from falling over. It is these kinds of experiences I would have never had if I were in more structured type of classroom. I really learned a lot form the research and experimentation.
Another time I remember being on a field trip to Denver and I saw this pastel drawing at some little gallery and I was so impressed I had to show you. You explained that this was a copy of one of Monet's water lilies that we would see it later at the museum. You helped me see how it came in to focus the farther away you were from the painting and how he was able to create the effect of water with out using the color blue.
Your class was the most valuable learning experience I had when I was in school. You really helped me explore my interests that still sick with me today. I can't count the number of times I returned to the museum after you class often trying to enlighten my friends about Monet as you had done to me. I wanted you to know what a great effect you had not only on me then but the effect you have on me now going into teaching. I have been doing a lot of observing but have not seen this kind of practice done in science. Science classes are more focused more on weeding people out than anything. For me, my philosophy revolves around students coming out of science class for a love of science in the same way I came out of you class with a love of art. I am never going to be great artist but art will always be apart of me. I hope the same will go for my students, that even if they don't want to become a scientist at least the will have an appreciation for the field.
This letter is just a thank you for what you had given me. I hope things are going well and that you are still teaching."
Thank you for everything.