The Man Behind the Cloak and Lens

My dad was a magician…. Well so I thought when I was younger.  I would enter my class with a shiny, silver penny almost everyday.  The kids would be in awe,wondering how I got a silver penny.  Everyone knew pennies were copper of course.  However, my answer was simple. “ It’s magic, my daddy made it.”  My dad was not a magician, but a Middle School Science Teacher  (He actually had to leave a PTA meeting because my mom went into labor with me).

Anyway back to the magic….We  (My brother, sister and I) went to school early with him everyday and I am sure he had to find some ways to entertain us before the school bell rang.  So he would mix some “magic potions” and make  smoke, fire and my beloved silver pennies.  Looking back I truly appreciated my father being apart of my home and school life.  Knowing he could pop up at any moment definitely altered my behavior at school.  I saw him at lunch, recess and after school.  To be honest, I didn’t always want him around but was secretly comforted that he was a door or two away.

I also have a vivid memory of my childhood because of my father.  Because of his passion for photography he made sure to capture every moment on film.  Each of my siblings have at least 3 gigantic photo albums  each, starting from day one that chronicles every play, sport, dance recital, cotillion and graduation we were apart of.  Many people may not know what my father looked like because he was in a lab coat (magic cloak) or behind a lens.

Flash forward to about 20 years later.  My dad now retired but has played the same active role in my nephew’s life.  His life is being captured on film and he sets up little science projects for him to discover.  He even wants to be a magician.

But it’s really not about the magic.  The memories are about the time that was shared.  My dad is the same as any other male figure who wants to be apart of a child’s life.  Children want you to be present and active in their lives.  That is why we are so excited about the Million Hours of Power Movement and what it can mean for so many children.  It means the nurturing of the next great scientist, photographer and yes maybe even magician.

You don’t have to be a male to help us in our plight for male involvement.   Simply start with voting.

Vote for PTA’s Million Hours of Power in the Pepsi Refresh project, then encourage everyone you know to vote for PTA.

– LaWanda Amaker is the Marketing/Communications Manager  for National PTA based in Alexandria VA. Her parents  Lin and Carolyn Amaker live in Orangeburg, SC where they raised her and her two siblings – Maurice and Sherrie

Bottom Line — Father Figures Help Families

Andre Ellis and Richard Thomas at Graduation May 2010 Father figures – they have added up over the years. I started with one – my mother Kristyl Thomas. Yes, I am the oldest son of a single-mother. She’d say to me, “I may not be a man, but I am going to raise you to become one. Until then, I am the man of this house. I am your mother and your father.”

I was intimidated at first. Over time, I quite naturally questioned how my mother could be both mother and father. I questioned whether or not I could identify one man who exemplified the characteristics of a father figure. I built relationships with mentors, teachers, artists, coaches, relatives, and strangers all of whom were men and women. I could say all of them were father figures. I saw them at their best and at their worst.

At his worst…

One mentor in particular, Andre Lee Ellis, a family friend and entrepreneur lives in Milwaukee where he produces Stage Theater. After one of his productions one night, my mother introduced me to him and told him he should put me in his next show. He said I’d have to attend his acting classes and audition as he recommends all of his actors. I wanted the opportunity to shine so I attended classes, but by the time auditions rolled around, his theater company closed.

At his best…

While he did not in fact have a theater company, he made it his sole job to train me to be what I wanted to be, an actor. He dedicated man hours to assure me that he would cast me in a show someday; if not I would be on the big screen. Until then, Mr. Ellis trained me when I wanted to compete in high school forensics in the category of Drama; to compete in NAACPs ACT-SO competition; and to audition for college theater programs. I don’t remember being on the big screen because it never happened, but I remember when he said, “acting means to always be art in motion.”

“Acting is more than saying the lines, you have to feel them with actions,” he said. “You have to make them feel real. You got to make moves, you can never fake moves.”

He was good at answering my questions. I always had questions. One question I never asked Mr. Ellis was whether or not he would open a theater again. I never asked because he always said that he would. But, he had much to say, much advice and many answers to my questions overall.

I asked him at one time, how my mother could be both a mother and a father. He said, anyone can be anything and actions speak louder than convictions.

His word proved to be true. He was right. My mother’s actions have exuded beyond the barriers of sound. She has raised me to be the man that I am to so many people. He was right. He did reopen his theater company. In fact, Mr. Ellis recently reestablished his theater company and became the owner of the first African-American performing arts group to have their own space to work in Milwaukee.

Time spent being trained by Mr. Ellis was about more than acting experiences, but object lessons for me. In my eyes, he exemplified the characteristics of a father figure. I would not go so far as to say he was a better father than my mother because she raised me to be the man that I am for her and others. I would say Mr. Ellis is a father figure who has dedicated valuable “Hours of Power” to help me become the man my mother raised me to be for my community. Bottom line, father figures help families.

Vote for PTA’s Million Hours of Power in the Pepsi Refresh project, then encourage everyone you know to vote for PTA. Your voting power can provide a voice for children who need father figures.

How Dad Is Involved

Welcome to back to school time. I love the fall of the year. The weather is great (even better when you can drive a convertible), you can sleep with the windows open at night and then there’s FOOTBALL! Not pro, I’m talking High School and College. This past week Tyler (14), William (11), my wife Teresa and I attended one of our neighborhood’s longest standing rivalry games; Eastside High (blue) and Wade Hampton High (red/white). As a way of background, our two oldest (Matthew and Jennifer) attended Eastside and our two youngest will attend Wade Hampton, talk about a house divided…

Now how does this tie into Dads, Grandfathers, Uncles or any male role model supporting a student’s “back to school” adventure? Simple, you’re together!

Study after study show that when one parent is engaged in a child’s education that child is successful but when both parents are engaged that same student is even more successful.

For years we have heard from the male role models in a child’s life that “I’m not so sure I have the time to volunteer . . .” Well, has PTA got a plan for you!

This year the National PTA launched “The Million Hours of Power” campaign where we are asking 350,000 men to offer a minimum of three hours of volunteer time for their child’s school, or a local school in your neighborhood. Even if you do not have a child in school you can still take part. Now I can hear it from here, “I’m not sure I can give three hours?” OK, so let me ask you two simple questions. 1) Can you leave home go to a movie and return in less than 180 minutes? and 2) Can you at least give it a try? We’re only talking about 3 hours for the entire school year. Not 3 hours a week or a month, the entire year.

Through the “Million Hours of Power” PTA is planning to highlight new and exciting opportunities, and ideas, for getting more men engaged. It’s that simple! Can we count on you? PTA has incredible opportunities for all families; in this case we need every interested man to get engaged.

Take a minute and visit pta.org and see what the “Million Hours of Power” campaign provides. While on the computer please take an additional moment and go to the Pepsi Refresh Project and vote for the “Million Hours of Power”

As we move into this school year take a few minutes for your child and their education. I can assure you that it is time well spent!

Father's Day- Get in the Game

Father’s Day is 100 years old. It goes without question that when a parent is involved in a child’s education they succeed, but when both parent’s are engaged the child is much more successful.

So on this Father’s Day, we would like thank the dedicated parents of our country for their love, support and dedication for their children and the students of all our communities.

Dad’s play a key role. Father’s Day is but one day to celebrate and show up for the part. We encourage you continue to find the time to get engaged.

 

As a working Dad, I know how hard it is to find extra time to volunteer. If you haven’t dared to play an active part in your child’s education, here is a challenge. “Can you find 3 hours during the school year?” Three hours is all it takes, and can make all the difference for your child as well as their classmates.

Dad, thank you! Keep up the good work.

Courage and Credit

Former President Ronald Reagan had a sign on his desk that stated: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit”. That says a great deal about PTA Volunteers and more especially our Teachers. This year I was given the opportunity to participate in the selection of our National Teacher of the Year, and man we hit a home run!

Sarah Brown Wessling of Iowa was selected as the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and was recognized at a White House event on April 29th.  She represents one of the strongest and most talented classes of states Teachers of the Year in some time, all of which embody the words from President Reagan. Every day teachers work towards one goal, student success. They work to provide all of their students the best and at the end of the day they see their goal reached without a parade or White House ceremony.

Joe Lowenthal (NSPRA); Sara Brown Wessling (National Teacher Of the Year); Chuck Saylors (National PTA)

PTA would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our National Teacher of the Year as well as all of our states’ Teachers of the Year for a well deserved recognition. Each and every day our teachers deserve positive support for their efforts so we would like to encourage our parents to get engaged in the school and classroom, remembering that when parents are involved, students are more successful.

Mrs. Wessling will be speaking at our 114th National Convention in Memphis, June 10-13.