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Daniel Forstner
Althea, Agapi, Dan, and Filia

In 1986 my high school English teacher Mr. Joraanstad introduced an African American short story unit because “not all of us would live in Fargo in the coming years.” Mr. Joraanstad might not have anticipated how Fargo would change, how its immigration population has recently increased by 72%. He was right, however, about not all of us staying in Fargo. And it was helpful for me to absorb stories from Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston for my later exploration of worlds far from home. Among the situations and places I have found myself:

-Helping mentally ill homeless find housing in Manhattan

-Listening to workers describe their challenges in a refugee camp outside Gambela, Ethiopia

-Preparing teachers for a new school year in Northern India

-Renovating a soup kitchen and homeless shelter in The Bronx

-Assisting first-generation college students navigate their first year at St. Olaf College

-Discussing Faulkner and kudzu with high school English teachers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Literature has been a driving force in my life, and it is my hope that our work together helps deepen its relevance in your own. Here are four principles that guide my teaching:

1)       Knowledge matters. Yes, you can Google anything, but you cannot be a critical thinker without retaining facts in your head.

2)       We learn by listening, but we learn more when a lesson gives us opportunities to discuss, debate, create, and present.

3)       To be a good teacher of reading and writing, I need to be a good reader and writer. I am a member of a wonderful book club, and one goal I have for the coming year is to write every day.

4)       It’s helpful to talk less about working and behaving and more about thinking and learning.


-Mr. Forstner

English Teacher

Room 371