Suburban history teacher’s energy makes his lessons ‘real’

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

It’s hard for Mike Smalley to sit still. He’s animated and on the move around his classroom at Crystal Lake Central High School. History excites him, and it shows.

Mike Smalley, Teacher of the Month: “I do consider myself to be a history buff.  I think that’s why I love teaching. I get to work with kids, and I get to go after another one of my passions, which is history.”

Getting his students to appreciate history -- even a little bit -- is one of his goals.

Smalley: “I Hear a lot of kids say, ‘I was never good at history.’ Yes you can be.”

Smalley has a persuasive brand of teaching.

Chad Harrah, nominating student: “Making everything funny, everything real.  He compares things to the past, today, the future.”

Chad Harrah is the student who nominated Smalley for teacher of the month consideration

Harrah: “He acts out history. He makes me believe that I can achieve things.”

Smalley kicks off each class with music indicative of the period in history that’s being studied at the time.

Smalley:  “I want them to be comfortable and to be themselves and to be confident with who they are. And that’s the whole kind of environment I try to put out there.”

Harrah: “He tells a lot of us to believe, and it works. I see him as a role model in my life.”

Smalley: “I’ve had a lot of great role models in my past that have instilled in me the idea of working hard, being energetic, be passionate.”

And now Smalley sees history repeating itself. For a job well done, Smalley receives a big round of applause and a check from Saint Xavier University.