It is a small world, indeed, for Ann Arbor physician Dr. Eric Straka.
Straka was pleased to hear the news about Dr. Patricia Green, the newly selected superintendent for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, as he was a sixth-grade student of Green’s in Maryland – and she was his favorite teacher.
“She was the best teacher I ever had,” said Straka, an internal medicine physician who practices in Washtenaw and western Wayne counties. “She was really serious about teaching and really cared about the students’ learning. I still have vivid memories of her class.”
Green was hired by the district on Saturday, March 5, following finalist interviews by the Ann Arbor Board of Education. The community was also able to hear the incoming superintendent and another finalist candidate at a Friday night forum the evening before the decision.
After Green’s appointment was announced and reported upon through local media, Straka posted in a thread after an AnnArbor.com story, sending along a brief note of welcome, and noting the teacher-student connection: “… I think the board made a GREAT decision to hire you and I hope you enjoy living here. I look forward to seeing you around town,” he said in part of his post.
Straka was in Green’s class at Buckingham Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland during the 1977-78 school year, where he recalls astronomy and space as a big focus of her science teaching. He recalls “a lot of reading, book reports and quite a bit of artwork. She was such an energetic teacher.”
Straka is with the primary care physicians practice, Partners in Internal Medicine. He has been practicing medicine since 1996 and is a clinical instructor at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and an adjunct clinical associate at the University of Michigan.
Green said she remembers Straka well and did not realize that he had landed in Ann Arbor and was practicing medicine here.
“Eric was such a terrific student who always wanted to do his best … I knew he had a tremendous future ahead of him,” Green said. She recalled the sixth-grade space science projects the year when Straka and his classmates incorporated research, scientific theories and artistic expression.
“Eric’s work stood out and was so excellent that I asked him if I could keep some of it as a ‘sample’ to share with future 6th grade classes and with other teachers during professional development days,” she said.
Fifteen years after having Green as a teacher, Straka was doing his residency at the University of California, San Francisco when his mother saw an item in The Washington Post about one of Green’s career promotions and sent it to her son. He sent Green a note of congratulations and within two weeks “I got this huge package in the mail with all of my old artwork in it – and it was in pristine condition.”
Green recalled the time equally well.
“Eric sent me an announcement that he had graduated medical school and told me that his love of science went all the way back to our sixth-grade class,” Green said. “For a teacher, there is nothing better than that kind of compliment. I was so excited, I packed up all the projects he had made and shipped them off to him as I felt it was time they were reunited with their creator.
“Little did I know our paths would cross again someday here in Ann Arbor. I am thrilled,” she added.
Straka said this special teacher touched his life. “She made me a better student,” he recalled. “She was challenging and tough, but she really cared about the kids. I think Ann Arbor is lucky to have her.”
Straka is married to Gianna Lete and they have three children in the Ann Arbor Public Schools: one attends Tappan Middle School and two got to Burns Park Elementary School.
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