Many educators have relatives who inspired them to become teachers. For Shirley Wahlstrom, the desire to teach came from an aunt who was an elementary principal in Detroit. "She cared about her job, her school, the teachers and the students and their families," said Wahlstrom, Livonia's high school teacher of the year who teaches Social Studies at Franklin High. "It is this sense of concern, pride, and accomplishment that I have tried to emulate."
Wahlstrom's teaching style and especially her concern for new students was molded by the many moves her own family made during her childhood. "As a child, I had the misfortune, or good fortune as the case may be, of moving many times and thus attending ten different schools in four different states. How I was treated as the `new kid on the block' has had a significant impact on my teaching and concerns for new students." Wahlstrom's own four children taught her well one of the fundamental truths of parenthood: no two children are alike. And her own divorce has shown her the heartaches many of her own students go through when their parents break up.
Those four experiences- an aunt who taught, constant moves as a child, four children and a divorce- have blended together.
Jonathan Swift, who teaches global education, worked with Wahlstrom when both put together the program at Stevenson. "She isn't just a teacher to young people, she shares herself, her travels, and her wisdom," Swift said.
Wahlstrom, a Novi resident, thinks globally, and works to get her students to think internationally also. She does this through field trips, through the Model United Nations and through ethnic dinners. Last year, she helped produce "Light in the Dark Ages," a program highlighting mid- eastern cultures.
Franklin teacher Wilma Wagner called Wahlstrom "the kind of teacher I would want my child to have." Wagner used the words dedication, commitment, persistence, patience, vision, and caring to describe her colleague. "I have seen her do what is rare in our profession- come into work on Saturday mornings and work late often," Wagner said.
Source: Livonia Observer Vol. 56, Number 83 Monday, November 13, 1995 Livonia, Michigan