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Passionate Manson teacher tells students to think for themselves

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Manson High School English teacher Phil Fournier (Photo by Rosellyn Lindert)

“I’ll teach you, but don’t think yourself a baby”

“I don’t want to play the role of Polonius,” says Phil Fournier, the Manson High School, upper-level English teacher, in reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The character Polonius imposes his beliefs onto his daughter Ophelia, until she loses the ability to think for herself.

This quote pretty well sums up Phil Fournier’s personality. Constant references to various areas of culture spew out of the mouth of the exuberant, professionally-clad man. His interesting approach to teaching makes waves among students at Manson and pushes them farther than ever before. Phil’s heart lies in teaching kids the best he possibly can.

As a young child Phil had many interests including technology, character voices, and, of course, teaching. He organized classes for his neighborhood friends during his elementary school years. He admits that they didn’t often show up for classes outside of school, but Phil showed a passion for teaching very early.

He went through college the first time around, graduating with bachelors degrees in English and broadcasting, as well as minors in art history and communications. After graduating Phil entered the radio world through voice acting in Tucson Arizona. The occasional rogue character voice can still be heard in Phil’s classroom.

During the fall of 1993, he started at Northern Arizona University to get his teaching certificate, and graduated in the class of 1996. He received Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year award in Camp Verde, AZ. in 1997, then stepped back into the corporate world, working for Micron Technology and Micron Electronics until 2001.

His next hop was to teaching at the Northern Cheyenne reservation until 2003, when he moved to Port Angeles High School for five years. Phil administrated at Clallam Bay and Neah Bay School Districts before 2008, when he arrived in Manson and seemed to have found his niche.

“I love the students here; the students are great. I love being in Manson,” Phil says. “It’s a great place to raise your family. My colleagues are incredible, it’s just a blessing all the way around to be here, so every day I look forward to coming to school.”

“When you find your passion, your calling in life, you stick by it.” Phil added, “I could have gone on and maybe done something in corporate, but that’s not where I feel called. That’s not where I feel my passion, my longing. My passion is being in a classroom and teaching and learning.”

This passion, he says, comes from a passion for learning. “The great thing about learning is that you’re never done,” says Phil. “It’s not fixed. It’s all about growth and growing, and I think that’s what I love about it.”

This philosophy is evident in all of Phil’s classroom work. His goal is to learn alongside students, teaching them how to learn, rather than filling their heads with facts. He doesn’t try to spoon feed content. He gives students the tools to learn, making them use their own minds to do it.

This freedom makes a large impact on students. “I think that’s why we [teachers] are in this profession to begin with,” Phil said. “It’s the idea that you’re impacting someone, somebody’s life, in some way.”

Mr. Fournier’s classes are often regarded as difficult, but they cause students to think, which develops important life skills. Manson Junior Bianca Alexander said, “It’s good for pushing you to be ready for college classes.”

Phil never rejects ideas that students come up with in class, though he may challenge them, and force them to think outside the box. Ultimately Phil Fournier’s philosophy is that in order to be the best teacher you can be, you need to simply let the students learn.

(by Rosellyn Lindert)

Rosellyn Lindert is a student at Manson High School participating in the School Reporters Program at GoLakeChelan.com. 

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