By Noelle H. Lowery
Ask any adult if they want to go back to middle school, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that would volunteer. Peer pressure, hormones, acne and attitude. It is enough to make anyone over the age of 30 run screaming from a building.
Not so for George Abounader. In the last two years, the Marco Island Charter Middle School principal has been lucky enough to hire three former Charter Middle students as teachers. Lindsey Bott is in her second year of teaching seventh grade math, while Mike Radlovacki focuses his math expertise on sixth graders. Former Charter Middle star athlete Tim Tudor teaches sixth grade math and social studies, as well as seventh grade math.
“When I tell middle school students that ‘we believe in them’ and then 12 to 15 years later, I have an opportunity to demonstrate our belief in them by giving them a professional job and starting them in a professional career, I want to seize that opportunity,” explains Abounader.
He adds: “Our alumnae are individuals with whom we have spent a minimum of three years and have shared many experiences, during a very formative time in their lives. While they may be new teachers to our school, they are not new to me or our school and that distinction adds to their effectiveness in reaching our current students.”
All three teachers are hometown kids. All were raised on Marco Island, and all attended Tommie Barfield Elementary, Charter Middle and Lely High School. Tudor and Radlovacki were classmates at MICM — part of the first class to attend all three years of middle school there. Bott was three years behind them. While Radlovacki and Bott both graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with degrees in elementary education, Tudor earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in secondary education social studies from the University of Kentucky.
Their respective roads to the art of teaching and to teaching middle schoolers were very different. Bott was torn between being a teacher, a veterinarian, an architect or a Realtor. “It wasn’t until college that I realized teaching was a good fit me,” Bott remembers. She chose middle school because she relates to the age group, and math because it was always her favorite subject. “I enjoy being able to focus on teaching that one particular subject,” she adds.
Radlovaki always liked kids, and he knew that working with children would be entertaining and something he could see himself doing for the rest of his life. “I have had teachers and coaches in my life that have shaped the way I live and carry myself and I wanted to do the same for my students,” he says. Why middle school? “Teaching middle school can be very interesting,” explains Radlovacki. “The students are going through so many different changes, both physically and emotionally. I enjoy guiding them through the good and bad of being a young teenager.”
Tudor’s road to being a middle school was a little bumpier. In fact, he admits being a teach was never his plan. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do once I got to college; my life goal was just to get to (the University of Kentucky). Once I was there, it was like now what?” A little bit of soul-searching and a few compatibility tests later, and Tudor was looking at being either a teacher or a lawyer. His love of sports and desire to coach pushed him into teaching: “I always knew if I couldn’t play sports for a career; I wanted to coach, so here I am.”
When it came time for each teacher to find a place to teach, Charter Middle and their love for the school called them back to Marco Island. They all have very fond memories of their years at MICMS. “I chose to come back to MICMS because it has always felt like home. It offered the sense of comfort I needed as I was beginning my career,” notes Bott.
Radlovacki is more philosophical. “I really feel like it was meant to be for me to teach at MICMS,” he says. “I loved going to school here as a kid and still admire it as an adult. The teachers here are incredible. It really is an honor to even be associated with this school.”
Tudor’s experience on the Eagle basketball team — the team was undefeated — and his time as a student in Craig Fisher’s class beckoned to teach at Charter Middle. “I met Mr. Fisher when he first got into education… He started the Civics curriculum with my class,” reminisces Tudor. “We both loved basketball and had that bond. But in class, he just made it fun. Projects, discussions, occasional videos to emphasize points. Every day was something different, no monotony. Like it was story time, he just kinda snuck the info in when we weren’t looking.”
Abounader is confident the three made a good choice — for themselves and the school. “I know that their academic background was solid by studying at this school and am familiar with how they behaved as students, so I am confident of their character,” he affirms. “Michael, Lindsey, and Tim are excellent role models for our students, which is a major criteria for any teacher.”