The Chicago Bears have won three of their last four games and have reignited hope among the passionate fanbase. On Wednesday at Emerson Middle School, students and staff were decked out in Bears navy blue and burnt orange, but it wasn’t just to celebrate this winter surge in the win column.
The staff at Emerson had a surprise up their sleeve, and it started with getting the entire 7th grade into the gym. As usual, Emerson Principal Tessa Shulman and Assistant Principal Maria Soulias got the students focused and quiet, but this assembly began with an apology to the students because it wasn’t a gathering for them.
“We’re here today to celebrate a special teacher, and we have some special friends here,” Emerson Assistant Principal Paul Csongradi said, pointing to the metal divider that separates the fitness center from the gym. The wall rolled open, and five people and the Emerson mascot came out, all decked out in Bears gear.
Along the side of the gym, 7th-grade social studies teacher and basketball coach Doug Florence uncrossed his arms and smiled - he knew some of those faces. The avid football fan knew of Henry Melton, the former Chicago Bears defensive lineman who walked out onto the Emerson gym floor. How can you forget that first-career NFL sack bringing down Brett Favre? However, the real VIPs of the afternoon were Florence's parents, who were amongst the former NFL player and other Bears staff!
All the 7th-grade teachers and students gathered in the gym to celebrate Florence for being named a Chicago Bears Classroom Legend. The team goes around Chicagoland and honors teachers for excelling, going above and beyond their jobs, and making a real impact in their communities.
Florence has been at Emerson Middle School since the building opened 26 years ago! When nominating Florence, Csongradi wrote, “He’s a champion for all students. He’s constantly helping students achieve excellence, whether it’s in the classroom or outside of the classroom. He’s there for students at all times and is constantly building positive relationships to build trust and respect.”
Florence’s nomination - written by Csongradi - was read aloud to the gym. “He strives to create engaging classes that lead to students wanting to come back to class every day. He organizes the Washington D.C. trip for the 8th graders every year so that they can have lasting memories of their time in middle school and learn about our nation’s capital. He has such a passion for these subjects that you can see it in his students.”
“He is what every football organization wants: a team player. He is constantly helping other teachers succeed by problem-solving and helping others. He mentors young teachers and does everything he can to make Emerson a positive environment for students and colleagues. He has a team-first attitude and is a ‘We’ person, not a ‘Me’ person.”
Florence walked to the front, greeted by applause and cheers. The longtime teacher and basketball coach shook the former Bears defensive lineman Melton’s hand and was given gifts from the Bears to accompany his honor.
He looked around the room and thanked everyone for coming, but he also wanted to celebrate his colleagues. “Thank you! But there’s a lot of other people in this building that do all the same things and deserve this award just as much as I do,” said Florence. “I really appreciate it, thank you. Thank you to the Chicago Bears.”
Florence not only gets to boast he’s a Classroom Legend, but the Bears also presented him with a $1,000 check for his classroom, Bears tickets, a custom jersey, and a commemorative football.
A Classroom Legend indeed, but we already knew that!