At the 2015 Employee Recognition ceremony, Dr. Ellin Booras honored SHS History Teacher Don Franke with the following heartfelt remarks.
Irrefutably one of the most highly regarded educators in the state of Massachusetts and beyond, Don Franke is the consummate professional. In his thirty years, he has inspired thousands of students. His reputation is the result of remarkable ability to treat each and every student as if he or she was capable of doing very important work.
Once a student is enrolled in any class with Don, he or she is changed forever. Don has a unique and universally successful impact on a student’s thinking. He opens minds, stresses problem solving, and creates a learning environment replete with curiosity and concern.
Whether it be International Relations, Modern World History, Advanced Placement European History, Advanced Placement Comparative Politics, or Advanced Placement World History, Don’s students are ignited with a new found passion about their roles in an ever changing global society. Virtually every student who has been in his classroom requests him again as a teacher of a subsequent course. I remember back about 10 years ago walking through the halls and seeing an overflow of students who had perched chairs outside his classroom. When I inquired about their situation, they said, “Mrs. Booras, we just want to hear him speak. He is so awesome! “
Last year, Don was watching the active and engaging learning in STEM Academy unfold and in February, when we are in the midst of scheduling, Don expressed that he would like to be part of the excitement that defines our flourishing middle school. So, he wrote a course over the summer and is now teaching a new STEM elective called Model UN. Needless to say, the students love him.
Don’s impact extends beyond the classrooms and hallways of SHS/STEM. As the advisor to our exemplary International Studies program. Each Monday night, and again on Thursday nights, our school is a bevy of excitement as close to 100 students eagerly arrive to engage in meaningful and highly informed discourse and debate about a plethora of global issues.
Don’s reputation among his peers as advisors is stellar. SHS students arrive professionally attired and exceptionally well prepared on Saturday morning to travel to surrounding schools to compete in Model UN conventions. This May, Sandwich will host its ………. SHSMUN, an outstanding event.
While every high school has cherished rites of passage, perhaps few have the longevity and meaning of the senior New York trip. Each spring, Don and the seniors in International Studies board the train in Providence to head to New York City. They report back to the School Committee and share their experiences which now include a visit to Ground Zero in addition to a United Nations session, museums and the experience of moving through one of the most diverse cosmopolitan cities in the world.
My conversations with students before they go and after they return affirm what we already know and cherish about Don. Each student is made to feel an integral part of the experience and all students look to Don as a game changer in their lives. A superb role model, extraordinary educator, gifted historian and inspiring scholar, Don is all of the above. Thirty graduating classes from SHS have taken the Don Franke factor and played in forward in their lives as they aspire to emulate a man for whom they developed profound and eternal respect and admiration.
Every school has its senators; they are the wise and fair minded sages who provide history and forward vision in just the right balance. Thank you for being my senator for almost 20 years, Don.
Don, if your mission in life is to have made a difference, you are one of the most successful people any of us here is privileged to know.