When Mirka Christesenretired from Wake County Public Schools several years ago, she noticed how few books captured the day-to-day existence of teachers.
She decided to change that by recounting her own experiences teaching in both Germany and North Carolina. Her new book, “If School Desks Could Speak,” features 42 vignettes from her life as a teacher, including encounters with students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators.
“My biggest hope is that people will understand what a teacher’s life is like,” said Christesen, 64.
The book includes humorous episodes from Christesen’s career, such as how she finally dealt with a student who insisted on calling her “Babe” to more serious stories, such as how she helped struggling students ultimately succeed in school. It also has an epilogue where Christesen shares her tips for teaching.
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Christesen graduated from Charles University in Prague and then went to work for the English section of Radio Prague. She met her husband, Robert Christesen, then an American opera singer, when she interviewed him in the spring of 1971. They eventually married and moved to Germany, where she taught English and Russian.
When they moved to the United States, Christesen began her career in Wake Schools in 1985. She taught English for many years before becoming an resource teacher for the academically gifted. Her career included stops at Broughton High School, Leesville Road Middle School, Centennial Campus Middle School, Lufkin Road Middle School and Southeast Raleigh High School.
Christesen said she quickly learned how many roles American teachers are expected to play in the classroom, from instructor to disciplinarian and supply keeper to confidant. Those expectations only grew during the years she worked, she said.
“I found out that no one works as hard as American teachers,” she said.
Along with providing an inside look at the life of a teacher, Christesen said she wants to dispel myths about teaching that make it seem like teachers have it easy or don’t work hard. She wants readers to recognize how valuable teachers are and appreciate their contributions.
“Teaching is the profession that creates all others,” she said.