July 15, 2002
Students should be put ahead of rule book
During my three years at Woodinville High School, I had the pleasure of spending two in one of Dr. Larry Gulberg's chemistry classes: first, an honors-level introduction to chemistry, and then a college-level advanced placement course. I can state without hesitation that Dr. Gulberg is one of the finest educators I encountered in 12 years of public schooling. His deep commitment to student learning, warm sense of humor and amazing talent at making extraordinarily complex topics intelligible to those without a PhD have earned him my continuing respect and gratitude. I am frankly embarrassed that our school system, whose primary duty is to educate and motivate its students, is attempting to discipline and perhaps remove this extraordinary teacher.
I'd like to share a personal story about Dr. Gulberg. When I finished the three-hour Advanced Placement Chemistry exam, which students take to earn college credit for high school courses, I wasn't confident that I had gotten the 4 or 5 score (out of 5) that I needed to waive a basic chemistry course at Pacific Lutheran University. Parts of the exam were extremely difficult, and more than a few of my answers were educated guesses. When I received my AP scores in July, I was surprised with a grade of 5. A close friend of mine was sure that she would get a non-passing score, but ended up with a very respectable 4. Other students had similar stories. I give all the credit to Dr. Gulberg who had ingrained the subject so deeply into his students that sometimes we didn't even realize where the answers came from.
Imagine my shock when I learned that Dr. Gulberg was suspended from his teaching position just four days before my brother Ñ a member of the WHS Class of 2002 and of the WHS state-championship Science Bowl team Ñ and his AP chemistry class took the AP exam. Because of the shortsightedness of a group of administrators, he and many other students may now lose college credit and thousands of dollars in saved tuition. If this ludicrous suspension was truly necessary, the administration could have had the decency to wait a few days until after the exam.
The Northshore School District and Woodinville High School Administration need to rethink their attitude toward the students they serve. The unconscionable treatment of Dr. Gulberg is simply the latest in a series of unpopular and seemingly purposeless decisions by district and school officials. Northshore is not one of the best districts in the state because of thick rule books and inflexible administrators, it is the teachers who instill the knowledge and drive that students must have to succeed academically and professionally.
Dr. Gulberg's methods may be a little unorthodox, but there is no questioning that he and his students perform when it counts. Furthermore I never felt endangered or threatened by Dr. Gulberg's experiments and demonstrations, and I don't know of one student or parent that ever complained. From "zero tolerance" policies that lack common sense to attacking a popular and effective teacher for thinking out of the box, it's time for the bureaucrats in our educational system to stop neglecting their primary responsibility - educating - and start putting the students above the rule book. To do otherwise, in someone else's words, is to display a true lack of moral character.
Darren Ritchie, via e-mail