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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  Overcast
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Teachable moments

My dad wanted me to be an engineer. His dad, an Irish immigrant who died a decade before I was born, worked for the railroad in southwestern Pennsylvania building trestles. If you've ever been to southwestern Pennsylvania, you can understand that it took a lot of trestles to traverse those hills. Granddad died in the middle of the Depression, leaving a passel of kids, and my pop was fortunate to eventually become a steelworker, but he wanted something better for his son. I was good at math, but equally adept with words. In high school I fell under the sway of an English teacher, and I ended up with this newspaper. Perhaps if I had had a science teacher like Ben Senson, my dad would have gotten his engineer.

Maggie Rossiter Peterman is the author of our cover story this week on Senson, a teacher at Memorial High School. She first encountered her subject at a Foundation for Madison Public Schools event. A former reporter and columnist for the Saginaw News, she recognized a story opportunity when she saw one. Senson, as documented in "The Science Teacher," is an inspiration and a motivator for his students and, in these days of educational angst, a fitting exemplar of what is right in our schools. As in my personal experience, it's the teachers who make the difference.

In her five years in Madison, Peterman has freelanced for most major area publications. This is her first story for Isthmus.

Nathan Comp, a regular contributor to Isthmus and author of The Daily Page feature "Comp Time," has been recognized by the Wisconsin Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with their "Special Friends of Children Award" at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association on April 18 in Milwaukee.

He received the award for two stories he wrote for Madison publications. One was "Drugs Are the Real Deal for Middleton Students," on drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents at Middleton High School, which appeared in The Capital Times. He was also honored for his Isthmus story "The Kids Aren't All Right" (9/14/07), which dealt with the little-known Meriter Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital and the difficulty young persons have in obtaining adequate psychiatric care. Isthmus congratulates Comp and is proud to have been instrumental in bringing attention to such a neglected societal problem.

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