Longtime math, science teacher calls it a career after more than 30 years at Sisson School

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Mike Savarese talks with his seventh grade class in 2018 during a field trip to Captain Jack’s Stronghold and Lava Beds National Monument. Savarese said he enjoyed sharing his passions with his students for the past 32 years, especially during field trips and through hands-on projects

A longtime seventh grade science and math teacher known for his hands-on approach to learning is retiring after more than 30 years at Sisson School in Mount Shasta.

Mike Savarese said it “brightens his heart” when he runs into a former student who mentions how he made a difference in their lives.

Savarese has taught long enough to teach the children of some of his former students. 

“Some ex-students are now teachers, some run laboratories (and) some climb trees,” said Savarese, who also taught biology at College of the Siskiyous for five years as an adjunct instructor.

Savarese is inviting all former students, co-workers and friends to a retirement party on the last day of school, Friday, June 11, from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at the pay beach at Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort. He said those who attend must be over 21.

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Savarese, who grew up in northern New Jersey and attended college in Fairbanks, Alaska, said a few outstanding teachers in high school inspired him to become a teacher himself.

“A good teacher can make a huge impact on students,” he said. “My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Sabatino was brilliant, a great teacher, dedicated, and super funny!”

Savarese also recalls a moment of clarity while serving as a math lab tutor at COS when he was 21.

“I tutored a mother in her 50s (who was) changing her career. She was about to drop out of school because she could not pass algebra,” Savarese said. “It was a great feeling when she got a B- on her final exam. She was ecstatic and continued with her education. I then thought, ‘I might be a teacher.’ I have always enjoyed helping kids.”

Savarese said his favorite part of teaching is seeing kids get excited about learning. He likes inspiring students who “never really felt comfortable and successful with school on many levels: academic, social, and emotional. ... When students feel valued and respected it has helped motivate them to care about their education.”

He also enjoyed taking students on field trips over the years to the coast and to the pro-national Motocross races in Sacramento for “motocross math.”

Savarese’s students were on ESPN and articles about the class appeared in dirt bike magazines. 

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Savarese also took students for many years to Iron Gate Fish Hatchery, where they learned about the life cycle of salmon. They always brought some salmon back to school to dissect.

“I think it is important for students to see you as a human being ... to share your passions, aspirations, life teachings, and challenges,” said Savarese. “We had many pizza dance parties which was a way to reward the kids for their efforts.”

When asked for advice for people who may want to enter the teaching profession, Savarese said it’s important to “really really ... have patience and a true love of helping children.”

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“At times the politics can distract from the true mission of teaching our children,” he said. “Learn to adapt to the ever-changing climate of the students, parents, staff, and administration. Yes, A good administrator can really help aid the support. The population of students coming into the system now most definitely have more internal challenges and obstacles which become even greater challenges for teachers.”

After retirement, Savarese said he will enjoy more water sports, fishing, biking, skiing, winter outings, cooking, camping, diving and gardening.

He also wants to travel abroad to experience different cultures and spend more time with his family and friends.

Savarese expressed his thanks to “a myriad of amazing parents who have supported their childrens’ education."

“I am very grateful to have taught in this wonderful community,” Savarese said.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.