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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Malisha Magnuson and Jason Cottingham: Retiring teacher brought inspired, cultivated minds

UPDATED: Tue., May 4, 2021

By Malisha Magnuson and Jason Cottingham

By Malisha Magnuson and Jason Cottingham

TEACHER APPRECIATION: Eric Magi, On Track Academy, Spokane.

Throughout a 42-year teaching career, Eric Magi has touched countless lives in Spokane while creating a culture of trust and learning.

As the On Track Academy science teacher nears retirement at the end of this unique school year, Mr. Magi’s students and fellow teachers are showing their appreciation for a humble leader whose impact will live on in others.

Mailisha Magnuson, a junior at On Track Academy:

When I think of Mr. Eric Magi, I think of a teacher who cares. I think of when I said I couldn’t do something and Eric proved me wrong. Eric – he always asked us to call him by his first name – showed me that whenever I put my mind to something, I could do it. Eric is not just a teacher. He is also my mentor. Our school has a mentoring program through Summit Learning that pairs teachers with students and helps us really get to know each other. Mentors act as a learning and life coach, which has been super important this year. I remember days when I was having a hard time and Eric did his best to find something to brighten my day.

Whether about school or life, Eric doesn’t just give answers to our questions. He helps us understand the “why” of the problem and that has built confidence that I never had before. Before I met Eric, I hated math, science, and pretty much school in general. I never thought I would get through it. But I remember feeling very welcome and safe when I joined On Track and met Eric. He completely changed the way I viewed teachers and the school environment. Within the first week of being in Eric’s chemistry class, I was engaged and learning.

This was a first for me! I started to love chemistry because Eric made it engaging and fun. He made complex subjects relatable to us. Eric has helped me not just pass classes, but really understand school, and give me the confidence to do what I love! Eric radiates a positive energy that is full of kindness and motivation. He has changed my life for the better. When I think of this past year especially, Eric has taught me grit. He has shown me that even when times are tough, there is always a way to get through it and reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Jason Cottingham, a student-teacher at On Track Academy who attends Gonzaga University:

Eric is certainly one of the wisest men I’ve met. However, I am certain I haven’t reached the depths of his wisdom. Eric has taught me an incredible amount in my time as a student-teacher at On Track Academy. From the get-go, he was helpful, kind and supportive – and always armed with a quick wit and sense of humor. I quickly learned to listen to his stories because they always contained essential insight into the teaching profession.

He always took time to give insight to an upcoming teacher like myself and couldn’t help but take me under his wing. That is the way for someone who is relentlessly committed to the ethos of being a true teacher. Eric reaffirmed my belief in myself, and in the unshaken belief that students come first. Always. That only by building a mutual, trusting relationship with a student can we reach them as learners, and human beings. Seeing him interact as a mentor was so insightful. Every student in this country deserves such relationships with their teacher. Eric understands that the way we interact with students is more important than the content we provide.

My first compliment from Eric was when he remarked, “You really know how to talk to kids. You’ll be a great teacher.” There is certainly more to teaching than being a conversationalist, but this statement shows where Eric’s mindset truly is. Eric taught me that the nature of teaching is not solely to instruct. That no educator has ever “arrived,” but that we are constantly reshaping our understandings and engaging in the lifelong process of learning. I believe Eric would not consider himself the “instructor,” but instead the “lead learner,” guiding and evolving alongside his students. He teaches people to broaden their belief in what they thought was possible of themselves, myself included.

So, here’s to Eric Magi, with his unmatched wit, ferocious humor and caring touch. We all await anxiously to hear of his journeys trekking across the United States: for perhaps no one has earned the adventure more.

On Track Academy serves students in grades 9-12. It is part of Spokane Public Schools.

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