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Do you ever wonder about the impact that instructors make in a classroom?  Mike Benedetto says it best.  “I have always been in awe when I see quality teaching.  It’s about the instructors in the classroom.  It’s who we are at Saint Mary’s.  It’s the lifeblood of our university…no matter the program.”

A familiar face in the Graduate School of Education (GSOE), Mike Benedetto began his time with Saint Mary’s as an adjunct professor in 1997.  “I taught evening classes in the M.A. in Education program.  The class I taught was titled Topics and Trends (in Education)…1997…gosh…is that twenty years?”

The experiences that Mike has had at Saint Mary’s create an opportunity for reflection. “I have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people. What makes Saint Mary’s such a special place to work is the Lasallian mission and its philosophy. From top to bottom the place is filled with dedicated quality people.” 

Mike has gone on from his beginnings as a course-contracted faculty member to more broadly defined roles within the GSOE.  Mike was a site coordinator and cohort advisor in the M.A. in Education program for seven years and then spent four years as a field specialist, working with local schools and teachers doing marketing, promoting, and recruiting for the GSOE. 

Over the years, Mike has observed tremendous growth and also notes changes in the educational environment.  “It used to be maybe two students had laptops when they came to class.  Now they all have them and technology is a huge part of their learning.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Mike has been busy in his new role as observation advisor.  He organizes and performs formal observations of course-contracted faculty members in various programs within the GSOE. Mike travels to many locations throughout central Minnesota as well as the Minneapolis campus connecting with course-contracted faculty and observing them as they teach.  “I see some really great instruction going on.  Different instructors use various techniques and approaches that are all effective in their own way.  Everyone brings his or her own “artistry”.  

Mike began his career in education as an elementary teacher.  After furthering his own education, he became an elementary principal, an assistant superintendent, and spent five years as the Superintendent of Schools in Monticello, MN, where he retired in 2005.  

Mike and his wife Sue have been married for 49 years and live in the same home on the banks of the Mississippi in Monticello that they purchased 30 years ago.  Mike and Sue have three adult children.  Scott lives in Houston, TX, Lisa lives in nearby Bloomington, MN, and their youngest, Gina, resides in Rye, New York.  Mike and Sue love to travel and recently were in Europe (Spain and Italy) and just returned from a birthday trip to Charleston, SC  

Mike has been blessed to have a very successful career in public education both as a teacher and administrator.  He often speaks with intense gratitude about his experiences and the relationships he has built with other educators over the years. “A special time for me was working as the assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction.  It was a very exciting era in education, because teaching and learning was inundated with so much new information.  Challenges came with that period of learning in terms of how to disseminate the information to our teaching staff.  The content was very exciting but the process of prioritizing these new ideas was a bigger challenge.”

Mike’s wisdom and sense of humor make it very easy to connect with him.  There is a sense of humility about Mike that is evident in his personality and in how he approaches the mentoring and coaching of course-contracted faculty members in the GSOE.

“Good teaching is good teaching and I am amazed by that every time I go into a classroom or watch a coach on the athletic field.  Good teachers and coaches not only have a common set of skills but the “with-it-ness” to deliver those skills to their students.  

Mike embraces his current position at Saint Mary’s and recognizes the importance of his role.  “This position is a challenge.  To do it right is an awesome responsibility.  For me, ‘doing my part’ means going into a room and analyzing what I see and packaging it in such a way that the practitioner is receiving quality feedback about their teaching.  Regrettably that doesn’t happen often enough in our profession”.  

Mike adds,  “How does this transform into something real?  The purpose of feedback is either to reinforce a behavior or change it.  Learning is really ‘transfer’ that results in a change of behavior.  If I’m a good teacher, someone is walking away with something more.”