DENVER – Math is tough stuff, but not as tough as life can be. That's why high school math teacher Phil Munsterman is so important to his students. He gets it.
He knows what they have been through, what they are facing outside of school and where they want to end up. They want to end up in college, and he's helping to make it happen.
Mr. Munsterman teaches at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School. It's one of the poorest schools in the city. Many of his students come from single-parent homes, take care of siblings and have to work outside of school. Yet they also put in many hours of extra work because they know a good education is the ticket out of their situation.
Mr. Munsterman knows it, too. He decided to leave a successful career running political campaigns when he was selected for Teach America. It's a program that sent him to a very poor school in North Carolina. He says it changed his life.
"You know there are railroad tracks, and there's still a white side and a black side," he said. "And it still exists today. I taught on the black side of town, and I had chalk boards and no textbooks."
Now, he has text books and lots of support, but he knows he still has to push his students to move past the railroad tracks in their lives.
"It's so empowering for me to walk in and say 'You know what I'm doing to try and be the best part of your day today. I'm going to try and make sure you have a chance to do what you want with your life,'" Mr. Munsterman said.
He comes in early and stays late. He spends extra time not only helping his students with math but also with personal problems they may be facing.
Danny and Lyndi Abote, who have known him for years, talk about the time he spent hours all night talking to a student who was thinking about suicide. He was able to help that student realize that he was not alone. He helped save a life.
It's all in a day's work for Mr. Munsterman.
Congratulations for being chosen a 9Teachers Who Care winner.